The planets align, the stars twinkle, Sir Jackie Stewart pops up to spout some 20 year old rubbish and the Formula One world Championship sees not just four previous world champions, but four of the Best World Champions you have ever seen, stare down the thin ribbon of tarmac and know THEY ARE THE BEST IN THE WORLD.
All four of these giants have something to prove this year, all four have everything to lose this year, and failure could very well end a career here.
Jenson Button, current world champion; he’s left the very comfortable world of Ross Brawn and the ex Honda mob for the cold stark world of win at all cost McLaren. These boys don’t go racing for a bit of a laugh; it’s not “cup of tea then change the tires chaps” racing. These boys play to win and it’s also the home of ...
Lewis Hamilton. The wonder son of McLaren, the prodigal son. Last year he turned a rubbish season around. He lied, learned that not everyone loves him and realised that winning isn’t about just turning up. He won races, but lost the world championship. He did grow up last year, but did he become a man? Only he can know that.
All the great drivers, drive for Ferrari eventually. Alonso won the world champions ship in 2005 and 2006, back to back. That was always the sign of a great driver, but then he went to McLaren to prove that he was the greatest, that he was better than the car. He could go anywhere and win back to back to back in different cars. No one had done that before. But it all fell apart. He fell out with McLaren, with Hamilton and with many of those that had supported him. He left after only one season and fled back to the comfort blanket of Renault hiding behind Flav and licking his wounds. But then it all went wrong again with cars hitting walls, pointed fingers and FIA hearings. Now he’s back in a car that can and will win. All the great drivers know that they are only as good as their last race.
He’s been away for 3 years. He’s won more Championship than anyone, more races than anyone, more poles, more fastest laps, more bloody everything. He IS modern Formula one. Cut him in half and it says WIN AT ALL COST. He is Michael Schumacher. God only knows what he feels he has to come back and prove here. Ross Brawn and Mercedes have tempted him out of DIY on Sundays and trips to Tesco’s for the weekly shopping. He broke his collar bone last year trying to win a motor bike race. Will he break something this year trying to win an F1 race?
These four are the core of a great year. Hamilton wants to win it back. Button doesn’t want to lose that which he has worked so hard for. Alonso wants to prove he can do it without a Renault engine. And Mickey wants to prove that he is and always will be the Greatest Formula one driver of all time.
Meanwhile we have a whole bunch of thrusting young bucks out to prove they are better than the Americans, who have not turned up. I don’t want to say I told you so, so I’ll let Bernie do it for me.
“I told you so”
The Tail End Charlie Challenge: It’s looking like a one horse race at the moment to be honest. Not quite what I was expecting, I have to say. Yes yes Lotus and for F**ks sake bloody Trulli look to be the best of a rather bad mob of idiots. The Virgin team with Glock and Lucas Di Grassi doesn’t look like it can do more than 10 laps before it dumps its hydraulic fluid all over the track. Whilst the Campos chappies have turned up (at long last) with a car designed by my five year old after his swimming teacher explained what an F1 car looks like. “Throw some shapes at the design board and see what sticks chaps”. Even Brawn turned up to one test last year before blowing everyone away. Maybe Campos knows something we don’t.
Not what I’d hoped for. Still it keeps you interested in the back of the grid, which was the plan.
Meanwhile we have some new boys, some old boys and a few random funnies to keep an eye on this year.
McLaren - Button joins Hamilton, Google isn’t being much help tonight, but I think the last time two English drivers drove for an English team was Julian Bailey and Jonathan Palmer at Tyrell in 1988, they were rubbish. Button and Hamilton are this year’s dream team. Those in the know say the mind games have started with Hamilton ditching his father as manager. That McLaren has wrapped up Hamilton and built the team around him. Buttons first day of testing was spent getting him to fit into the car for instance. But I think Hamilton has learnt from the Alonso year and knows he needs to beat not just Ferrari but Mickey Schumacher this year. They both need to work together to be in with a shout. Better to be fighting a team mate rather than six other drivers.
Mercedes – The car giant flicks the V’s at McLaren, took their ball off to their new best friend Ross and bought an old man out of retirement. Nico must be wondering where it all went wrong. From team Numero Uno to tea boy in one swift move. He had it all and then Michael Schumacher turns up and Nico is just another driver being told to pull over to let the big man past. Harsh on Nico I think. He is better than that. Can Mickey do it? I’ll let you know after Brazil okay.
Redbull – Last year’s best car didn't bring home the bacon, they lost out with bad luck and Renault engines that needed more cooling. Vettel and Webber get to keep their seats. This year Vettel needs to make fewer mistakes and Webber needs to stop hitting so many people before the first corner. Wins will come if Newey can cool the Renault effectively from the off.
Ferrari – Kimi flounces off to WRC, good riddance to the petulant ice man, no loss there. In comes Alonso, love him or hate him (and I do kind of dislike him) you have to admit he is one of the best drivers in F1 right now. He’s focused and utterly professional. He gave McLaren the direction they needed, dragged Renault to the sharp end of the pack and avoided yet more finger pointing and mudslinging. Teflonso is the only front runner who knows what Schumacher is capable of. Massa returns after the doctors rebuilt the front of his skull. It’s a miracle that he can live and breathe, let alone go out and race. Testing showed he still has the speed and stamina, only a race will show if he has the ability to race.
– off goes Nico and the other one. In comes the oldest man in F1, Barrichello, to give them experience and cheapo Saga travel I guess. The new boy is Nico Hulkenberg, who didn’t embarrass himself during winter testing. Those people who know about stuff are saying the name Hulkenberg and Hamilton in the same sentence. Though Hamilton had possibly the best car one the grid when he joined and a double world champion to tell him where to queue with his lunch money. The Hulk gets an old man who’s well past his sell by date in my opinion.
Renault – It’s now 11.12pm and I’ve had a large G&T and a bottle of red and now I have to think of something interesting so say about Kubica and Petrov. Errumm mmm eeerrrrr, yes. Well they’re going to be better than Lotus I suppose. Renault have sold up to a business chap who wants to “make business to business face time” whatever that means. I predict a slow slide to the back of the grid and eventual sale to some gangsta types from Russia or China. Kubica has gone to the wrong team at just the wrong time. Petrov is bank rolled by Russian money. Make of that what you will.
Force India - did alright last year moving up from the bottom feeder class. Expect to be mid field jonnies this year. Sutil and Liuzzi return. Sutil needs to step up to the plate this year. Liuzzi has lots of money behind him. He was also very sullen when I asked him to sign my son’s autograph book. So I don’t like him.
Torro Rosso – Have built their own car this year apparently. Though I suspect if you scratch it, it’ll have “designed by A Newey” under the paint work. Buemi and Algueruari are back again. My bettering is one of these two will be the first to get fired.
Lotus – first of the new boys. ...... Trulli. That’s all. They’re not Lotus cars, they’re a bunch of Malaysians who went to Norfolk on holiday once and kind of liked the views. The Chapman Family have nothing to do with this. ....... Trulli..... For the love of God...... Trulli. They’ll be the best of the new boys. But that doesn’t make it alright. It’s a Gascoigne vanity project; let’s see if they make it to the end of the season. Kovalainen is in the second seat. So you have Trulli and Kovalainen in one team. The best thing about this is that they will not trouble the top ten in any way shape or form and thus I don’t have to write their names out more than absolutely neseccary.
Virgin – The other new boys that made it to the grid on time with a car that actually moves. So far it’s shown that it can lighten itself after 10 laps by dumping its hydraulic fluid all over the track. They’ve not got long to sort out a fairly major design flaw, so Bahrain could be a short race for the CFD boys. Glock gets new overalls with a Virgin Logo on them, it’s a shame he’s here and not in a better car. I thought he did a better job at Toyota than this. Some chap called Di Grassi is in the second seat, I have no idea who he is...Good in Gp2 apparently though he never won the big cup.
Sauber – was BMW until they threw their toys out of the pram and flounced out of the fire exit pretending to not care and telling everyone that they could have Bernie any time they wanted too. They sold up to Peter Sauber at the very very last minute in a really pathetic display of business morality. They even took their engine away, but made sure Sauber had to keep the BMW name. Cheap and pathetic. So Sauber gets his old team back and looks to have turned it around. Pedro De La Rosa has been brought in from McLaren along with everyone’s favourite crazy Japanese driver Kamui Kobayashi. These two have been setting some good times in winter testing. Are they going to do a Brawn and win the silver Cup? I just can’t see it happening. Like I couldn’t see Brawn wining last year......
Campos – oh dear. Oh dear oh dear oh dear. .................... Oh dear. Bruno (not trading on the Senna name what-so-ever at all honestly) Senna. And Karun Chanhok. I think they have lots of money, because Campos doesn’t have any. Adrian Campos was last seen hanging around outside Madrid airport with a dancing monkey on a chain, rattling a tin and asking for spare change. He’s sold up to some chap called Jose Ramon Carabante. He’s renamed the team Hispanese Racing team (HRT ). The word on the street is they have more than a little backing from VW/Audi. Who are waiting to see what the 2013 engine rules look like? Maybe, maybe not. If Campos/HRT is there at the end of the season that will be a very big achievement.
Team wise, Mclaren, Ferrari, Mercedes and possibly Redbull will be fighting it out for the constructors. Renault, Sauber and Williams will be hoping to pick up points if the big boys stumble. Whilst Torro Rosso, Lotus, and Virgin hope to finish the odd race. Campos will be hoping to finsih the whole season, let a lone a race.
Mr Todt will be hoping he doesn't have to get the big bad ban hammer if FIA meaness out of the cupboard and Bernie will be making more deal round the back of the bike sheds.
So there you go, it's all jolly exciting with Button, Hamilton, Alonso and Schumacher all out to prove they have the right stuff.