Championship favourite still unknown…but why?

Introducing a new regular feature on Rookie F1 from Matthew Turnbull (@MATTfishboxEFC)

Not since 1983 has the first five races of a season been won by five different drivers from five different teams and with no clear sign of the leading contender, who is in pole position for the 2012 World championship title.

After such a dominant Sebastian Vettel in 2011, the open start to the new season has come as a pleasant and welcome surprise to most F1 fans. Vettel won eleven of the eighteen races last year and despite picking up his first win of 2012 in Bahrain, he isn’t the hot favourite for the title.

There are many aspects that contribute to an open and competitive season and one of the main aspects is the type and brand of tyre. When Pirelli made their return to F1 in 2011, it sparked a string of super races when their unpredictable tyres made racing what it should be; competitive.

As the season progressed, the tyres where reviewed and their fast degrading style was changed. As the teams mastered their race strategies, the racing was dominated by Red Bull. Although Red Bull were the leading force, there was still great battles in each race between the midfield teams and this has continued into 2012 but now the front runners are also battling each other for race wins. The tyres have had a major impact on the first five races and with no sign of change, it looks set to continue.

Another aspect that has surely had an effect on the first five races is drivers coming good at the right time. As we saw last time out in Barcelona, Williams’ Pastor Maldonado needed a bit of luck in qualifying to get pole position but an amazing race performance showed just what the young Venezuelan can do.

Maldonado celebrating his win in Spain

Many doubted him after his coming together with Lewis Hamilton during Qualifying in Spa last season and with such a terrible car beneath him, many thought he would become another F1 failure.

Pastor has though shown what he can do as has another rookie in his second stint in F1, Romain Grosjean. After a bumpy start, Grosjean has had three consecutive top six finishes and looks to have finally found his feet. With more of these so called “unexperienced” drivers starting to make a mark, it challenges the established drivers which gives us this excellent racing. When you look back at 2011, 2010 and 2009, there were really only three or four drivers consistently pushing for podiums every race but now, with the less experienced drivers starting to push further up the field, choosing the top three finishers before a race is nearly impossible to do.

Lotus have clearly got a great car this season and with Raikkonen and Grosjean yet to get their first wins of the season, who knows what will happen when F1 heads to its most glamorous setting of Monaco. Monaco has a habit of throwing up surprise results, most notably Olivier Panis’ shock win in 1996. Despite only seven cars finishing that race, it showed just how unpredictable the Monaco Grand Prix can be.

Never in the history of F1 has six different drivers from six different teams won the first six races but with Lotus still without their first win of 2012, a new record may be about to be set.

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