Oh what a circus, oh what a show…

17 Mar

After months of deprivation of our beloved sport, F1 fans have been given a cracker of a season opener so far, with the F1 circus rolling in to town in Melbourne. I am incredibly tired after watching the FP sessions and Quali live, but it is worth every yawn and bid to keep my eyes open.

Here’s my take on qualifying today.

Given the drivers and teams I’m supporting this year, it was a mixed blessing for me. I’d have liked to have seen Mercedes further forward, though obviously 4th on the grid is still very good for Michael Schumacher, particularly given his ability to make stonkingly good starts. I was really pleased that he managed to out-qualify Nico Rosberg too. Caterham were disappointed not to have done better, but I think that their race pace will be good, and both drivers will be pushing hard tomorrow. So what about Red Bull?

After rooting solely for Seb in 2011, it felt a little odd to not be disappointed by today’s outcome for Red Bull. I think both he and Mark could have done better (given SV’s mistake and MW’s KERS failure), but I really want Seb to be tested after such a dominant year so he can prove himself at fighting through the pack rather than leading at the front. I expect he’ll make a strong start tomorrow, and should be able to move up one or two positions, and then rest will come down to DRS and strategy. I don’t think anyone should write off the 2011 champions based on today, and I have been disappointed to see so many snarky/gloating comments from some McLaren fans on twitter. McLaren undoubtedly have a very strong car and impressed everyone today, but it is early days.

There were some real surprises today. The obvious one was Ferrari being in fairly dire straits, not helped of course by Alonso beaching himself in the gravel. I have no doubt he will be fighting hard tomorrow, but his car may not give him the ability to push forward as easily as he is used to. Besides Ferrari, the evenness of the mid-field was fairly surprising. and I was particularly pleased to see Williams making a strong start. It was a real shame Senna wasn’t able to get further forward, but for Maldonado to qualify 8th must’ve brought immense relief to the team after their annus horribilis.

The 2012 rookies also fared well in their first season. Grosjean took the media (though not the drivers) by surprise with his impressive 3rd place, while both Vergne and Pic impressed me too. I hope they all fare well tomorrow and finish their first race.

Off the track, the other ‘rookie’ is, of course, Sky Sports F1. Today saw the first real comparison of Sky v BBC, with Sky showing full live coverage, and the BBC showing edited highlights. I think Sky are doing a really great job for their first race weekend, and it is inevitable that the team will take some time to settle in to their new roles. The two most at ease seemed to be the commentating duo of Martin Brundle and David Croft – this pairing really is superb. I’d like to see more driver interviews than Sky Pad time, but it is difficult to capture all of those and show them live, so the BBC did have an advantage in being able to include more in their highlights package which was created after the event. I’m still not sure if Georgie Thompson has any purpose there other than being eye candy. I’d prefer to see more of Natalie Pinkham who knows the in’s and out’s of the sport a lot better.

The BBC edited highlights show was a mixed affair for me. I really hated seeing such an action-packed qualifying session being edited down so much, as it really didn’t do it justice, and the editing was quite poor. I appreciate that editing quality aside there is little they can do when they have a time-cap on how much footage then can show. On the other hand, the presentation was good, and I liked all the new graphics. I’m not sure about the new title sequence – it moves around too quickly, and by showing some historic footage in the clips it is not dissimilar to the Sky opening sequence (especially since they are using some of the same footage). I will be watching both Sky and BBC coverage, and will just look to enjoy the best of both. Again, the twitter banter between fans of each camp was disappointing – fans should be focussing on rivalry between drivers and teams, not on which broadcaster they watch.

Tomorrow’s race should be fascinating, and if today’s action is anything to go by, we are in for one heck of a Formula 1 season.

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