2012 has had the most open start to a season in Formula One history. The first seven races were won by seven different drivers, in five different cars. It seemed that success on Sunday was more or less a lottery. But in Valencia a week ago, some order began to emerge.
It became apparent in the early stages of the race that Red Bull have a very quick car. The World Champions had not dominated the early part of the season, but a heavily updated rear-end brought performance to the RB8, so much so that Sebastian Vettel managed to lead by over 20 seconds before a safety car eliminated that advantage. Vettel’s race was ended by an alternator failure, but barring that he would have won the race easily.
In pre-season testing, it was obvious that this year’s Ferrari was not competitive, and accordingly expectations for the season were low. Yet Fernando Alonso finished fifth in the opening race in Australia, and won in Malaysia, albeit in wet conditions.
Alonso followed up his win in Malaysia with podiums in Spain and Monaco, and then became the first repeat winner of 2012 at the European Grand Prix in Valencia. He now leads the Drivers’ Championship by 20 points, in a car that has not looked particularly quick all season. The F2012 is certainly much improved however, and the resources of the mighty Scuderia Ferrari mean that it will continue to get quicker, making Alonso all the more formidable.
Red Bull have the quickest car. After Valencia, that much is beyond doubt. But the driver to watch is not in a Red Bull. Fernando Alonso is the man to beat, and at this stage is looking likely to be 2012 World Champion.