Formula One 2012 half-term report: the minnows

*Stretches arms high over head, meshes fingers, cracks knuckles*

So, where were we? Yes, Hungary. Lewis Hamilton all the way. Gosh, that was a long time ago and what a lot has happened since. Especially here in Britain. We have, after all, discovered we are a global sporting superpower while the rest of the globe has discovered we’re more than a little good when it comes to organising unimaginably complex sporting festivals.

Not that Bernie Ecclestone needed telling, nor you lot, the paid up members of Top Gear’s Sunday Afternoon Club. F1 is after all, a British sport. Just like rowing, riding bikes or horses or paddling canoes or any other that doesn’t include the undignified business of having to stand up and run around (Mo and Jess honourably excepted).

F1 is back next weekend. A week tomorrow morning to be exact when the hills and the forests of the Ardennes Mountains over there in Northern ‘Yourp, in Belgium to exact, Spa-Francorchamps to be precise, and we are terribly excited. Spa might be old fashioned, wet and reeking of frites, but we love it. With Monza just a week after (substitute sunshine and ‘spressos), there could be no better start to what just might be the most exciting nine Grand Prix we have seen in a long, long time.

There are of course two ways of looking at the season so far, it’s freaky seven-winners-in-seven-races start especially. Either you consider this year’s tyres to be as unpredictable as Philips Idowu, and to be enjoyed as and when they turn up and work for your driver. Or you hope, as we began to see towards the end of Part One, that the temperamental little buggers can be managed and it’s the job of your driver’s team to get the best out of them. And that that is what F1 is all about; talent, teamwork and technology. All working together.

So with that in mind, we’ve decided we’re going to take the next few days compiling half-term reports on all twelve teams in F1 in what we’re calling ‘F1 Week” in anticipation of the return of F1. We’re starting today with Caterham, Marussia and HRT. There’s been talk while F1 has been on holiday of a two-tier championship to cover the period when F1 moves/doesn’t move to smaller, turbomotors in 2014. Arguably it already exists in the three teams that make up Saturday’s ‘Q1 Massive”.

The order is as it’s always been. Caterham is faster than Marussia who are faster than HRT. Arguably however the order of merit is the reverse. It’s gone largely unnoticed by all but the Sunday Afternoon Club that the HRT is a very pretty little car. It will never get beyond Q1, let alone win races, but credit where it’s due: the car has improved significantly since neither of its drivers were allowed to start the Australian Grand Prix. It has nothing like enough downforce and its DRS is largely ineffectual and at Monaco, where the neither is as important, it did not disgrace itself. Considering the team is living on hand-outs, has new owners, a new factory, and two drivers not exactly in the first blush, it’s a big A for effort from us. (Just don’t ask for the attainment mark).

Likewise Marussia. With new owners, new management and a new strategy that renders everything the team did as ‘Virgin’ totally redundant, Marussia should be proud to be only a second and change behind Caterham (which, after all has a better Renault engine and a better Red Bull transmission featuring KERS). It has also had to endure the most ghastly event that can befall any F1 team when it saw its test driver, Maria de Villota, horribly injured in a properly sickening testing accident. It takes a long time to even begin to get your feet in F1, and who knows whether Marussia will be around long enough, but it’s another A for effort from us, especially for hiring the fashionably quaffed Charles Pic. Unless Timo Glock has lost all his talent, the little French refugee from One Direction is good.

Inevitably, that means a B for Caterham. It is much better funded, has had stable management for three years now (the silly ‘Lotus/Not Lotus” business aside) and has hired some key talent in the aerodynamic and engineering depts. It really should by now not be the default third team for the drop in Q1. It’s an A+ for Heikki Kovalainen however. The boy never stops trying, he deserves better.

We’re back tomorrow with Toro Rosso and Sauber. Feel free to predict their scores or pick apart those awarded so far…

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