F1 2012: TEAMS TO WATCH OUT FOR

We’re two weeks away from the second-ever Indian Grand Prix- the latest addition to the circuits in the F1 calendar. After a highly successful 2011 race, where the fans got more than their share of excitement and results, in this buildup to the 2012 race- a crucial weekend for the top contenders and teams in the Championship- let’s take a quick look at the top teams to watch out for:

Red Bull Sebastian

Vettel, Mark Webber
Races: 141, Wins: 32, Championships: 2

Led by Team Principal Christian Horner since its arrival in F1 in 2005, Red Bull made rapid progress and began to achieve regular podium finishes by 2006. Thanks to chief designer Adrian Newey, by 2009, this team paced itself perfectly and, as scheduled, by 2009, found itself amidst the race wins (First in China), and second in the constructors Championship. Rookie Vettel finished 2nd in a highly competitive season, and this was a massive step forward for the team that entered as sister to 2005-06 Champions Renault.

A title double was achieved in just its 6th season in 2010, after Vettel stormed to victory in the last race and sealed his first drivers title in a relative upset. One way or the other, it was Red Bull that dominated the entire season as a team, and they finished miles above Ferrari in the standings. 2011 was a no-brainer, and in one of the most dominant seasons in F1 history, it was another title double- reminding many ofthe glory days of Ferrari and Schumacher.

2012, though, sees a different setup in F1, and Red Bull are finding it tough to maintain their strangehold at the top. Nevertheless, they are still leading McLaren by a slim margin, with Vettel just 4 points behind runaway firsthalf leader Alonso in the standings. Will 2012 be the year of the famed triple-double?

McLaren

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton
Races: 718, Wins: 180, Championships: 8
The second most successful team in F1 isn’t enjoying one of its most dominant seasons in 2012. With drivers like Hakkinen, Coulthard, Montoya, Alonso and Raikkonen over the years, this Mercedes-powered team has been without a constructors title since 1998 (Hakkinen). The spy scandal in 2007 disqualified them from the standings, and the only bright spot has been young prodigy Lewis Hamilton winning them the drivers title in 2008 after a painful miss in his debut season. It has been Whitmarsh after Dennis, that has kept the team running amongst the top 3, even though his gamble of hiring the top 2 British talents hasn’t paid off yet- with Hamilton leaving for Mercedes next year.

Always a bit feisty on the inside, McLaren has never been stranger to controversies and team feuds, but have also been a lesson in longetivity and competitiveness over a period of time. 2012 does not look any brighter for the ex-Champions, with none of their drivers in real contention for the title. They can make a late surge for the constructors title, but with Red Bull peaking, it doesn’t look good again.

Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa
Races: 846, Wins: 219, Championships: 16
Since the inception of F1 in 1950, Ferrari has been the only constant in its world. 62 seasons, and 2012 could see their comeback complete after arguably the best driver in modern racing Fernando Alonso makes a braveheart attempt at capturing the title with a lesser car. They are currently a far cry from the wonderyears of 2000-2004, probably the most dominant team period in sports history- where Ross Brawn, Jean Todt and Schumacher combined to decimate the field. After close shaves in the 2010 and 2011 seasons, where Alonso has consistently been in reckoning, a runners-up position isn’t enough for the Spaniard anymore- and he finds himself leading by just 4 points with 5 races to go. A final push and more will be needed if they are to enjoy their first successful season since Raikkonen pulled out a Championship from the hat in 2007

Lotus F1

Kimi Raikkonen, Roman Grosjean
Races: 15, Wins: 0
The Renault-powered team (formerly known as World Champions Renault), technically in its debut season, is already no stranger to success. Yet to achieve that elusive race win, Raikkonen and ‘first lap nutcase’ Grosjean have found themselves on the podium more often than not. With the strong backing of the always-competitive Renault engine, Raikkonen is 3rd in theconstructor’s standings in his comeback season in 2012- without a race win. His consistent top-5 finishes have kept him in the reckoning- though without a realistic shot at the title. A few race wins for him could make things interesting, but that would mean that his teammate must drive safer and get out of the first corner without harming anybody.

Mercedes

GPMichael Schumacher, Nico Rosberg
Races: 53, Wins: 1
Formerly known as Brawn GP, the World Champions in their debut 2009 season, Mercedes have struggled to maintain their standards over the last 3 years. The magical partnership of Ross Brawn and Schumacher isn’t exactly working wonders, after a disappointing 2010 and 2011 season. Rosberg, though, continues to try his best and clinch a few podiums and a singular race win- but he can only go as far as his car allows him to go. 2012 will be Schumacher’s last ever racing season, and with 5 races to go, everyone will want him to end on a high. But form says otherwise, and Mercedes technical frailties will take another year or two to work on. It will be Lewis Hamilton who joins the young German next season, and Brawn will be hoping for a change of fortunes with the mercurial Brit in his paddock. The last time he partnered a Brit, it resulted in a record-shattering 2009 double.

Finally, there are teams like Sauber (now with Indian team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn) and their recent podium finish at Japan as well as Force India who are enjoying a consistent point-scoring season. But none more exciting than the current top 5, any of whom can score a victory in the current competitive atmosphere of F1.

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