In about two weeks, at least seven of the 12 Formula One teams would have unveiled their 2012 challengers and will have let it loose on track in Jerez, Spain to kick off pre-season testing. While the true indicator of which team has its act together is usually the second pre-season test in Barcelona, there will be some things to look out for in Jerez itself. Even with the absence of Mercedes, who will not give their new car its track debut until the start of the second pre-season test on February 21.
Won't do you much good if you want to follow testing and don't know when and where it will be held now will it? First test: February 7 to 10 (Venue: Circuito de Jerez, 13-turn, 4.428km, clockwise) Second test: February 21 to 24 (Venue: Circuit de Catalunya, 16-turn, 4.655km, clockwise) Third test: March 1 to 4 (Venue: Circuit de Catalunya)
With exhaust blown diffusers now banned in F1 along with stricter regulations on engine mapping, a lot of attention will focus to the rear of the car with teams trying best to get around the ban and maximize downforce. Williams and Mercedes tried out exhaust systems that seemed to follow the letter of the law at the young driver test in Abu Dhabi last year. It will be worth watching what the heavy-hitters like Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari will be up to.
Prior to the 2012 season, the nose of an F1 car could be as much as 62.5cm above the ground. From now, they can only be as much as 55cm above the ground. So pretty much every car is guaranteed to look discernibly different from its 2011 version.
WHERE DID THEY GO?
In case you were a supporter of Renault, Team Lotus, Virgin and Mercedes GP, don't be too shocked to find those names missing or altered. They're still around. Renault is now Lotus F1. Team Lotus is Catheram F1. Virgin is Marussia F1 and Mercedes GP is Mercedes AMG F1.
F1's tyre supplier Pirelli have promised to be more 'aggressive' than they were last year in terms of building tyres that wear out in races. They also intend to have less of a difference between which tyre compound wears out faster so that teams are always kept guessing. Look out for drivers' and team members' comments on this issue following testing as they are never one to keep an opinion to themselves for too long.
Pedro De La Rosa and Kimi Raikkonen officially make their full time return to F1, although the latter has had plenty of track time as a test driver for both Pirelli and McLaren. Raikkonen is sure to hog the lion's share of the attention, however.
Stefano Domenicali, the team principal of Ferrari, has stated that the 2012 car will not be pretty. Looks are obviously secondary to a team who value performance but given the new nose regulations and the ban on blown diffusers, it will be worth watching whether all the F1 cars are hit with the 'ugly stick'.