After one of the most inconclusive winter testing programmes in recent memory, there were a lot of questions to be answered at the season opener in Melbourne. While some were definitively put to rest, the majority of the grid still remains a relative unknown.
Starting at the front, it seems McLaren just about have the edge on the rest of the field at present, after a dominant performance in qualifying which almost resulted in a perfect weekend for the Woking squad. They will be looking to carry that momentum into the next race.
While not quite emulating the dominance of 2011 at this stage, Red Bull are undoubtedly hot on the heels of their main rivals, and a strong performance from Sebastian Vettel proves that the World Champions are not about to roll over and let their title slip away. Expect a fight back from the Milton Keynes outfit this weekend.
Behind the leading pair, it’s anyone’s guess how the next group lie after the first race. With better luck, Lotus F1 Team would almost certainly have had both cars in Q3 and pushing for top 5 places had Kimi’s qualifying issues not arisen, and Romain not been cruelly ruled out in the early stages. The aim should be to sit at the sharp end of the chasing pack in Malaysia.
Ferrari’s troubles have been well documented, with Massa only avoiding Q1 elimination thanks to Kimi’s misfortune and even Alonso having to wrestle the F2012 into the points, it seems the famous prancing horse has some catching up to do.
Mercedes have shown good pace (particularly with their straight line speed) while Williams, Force India, Sauber and Toro Rosso have all shown flashes of potential to regularly challenge in the top 10.
Beyond this unpredictable (and uncharacteristically evenly matched) group, things are slightly more predictable. Caterham have clearly made strides forward, but must push on further if they are to hang on to the coat tails of the teams in front.
Marussia will be pleased to have made the grid after their trials and tribulations over the winter, and will look to build on that in Malaysia. HRT on the other hand have suffered a disappointing start by failing to qualify in Australia – a situation they will hopefully rectify for this weekend’s race.
Of course one race does not make a season, however with such a close field and a host of world class talent on show, 2012 looks set to be a closely run battle throughout the paddock.