There are a few kernels left un-popped in the 2012 Formula One season and perhaps the biggest kernel is: Who has the fastest car? We’ve asked the question here and on Twitter and without a question, the answers are a varied as this years results. If you had to place a premium on speed (which the 2012 season challenges to some extent) then which car, would you say, is the fastest on the grid? Speed is critical to any F1 car and it has to be present in 2012 to stand any chance of winning but the recurring theme of this season is consistency. Consistency is derived by finding speed on degrading tires and in a car with reduced downforce from last year.
The tire equation has been the single biggest impact on the sport in 2012 and while Pirelli are keen to suggest that they’ve not radically altered their tire from 2011 in order to affect the sport in 2012, the teams are finding the tires more difficult to predict than ever. The regulations have impacted the car’s performance as well with a reduction in downforce and off-throttle blown diffusers. The has lead to a serious change in the car’s performance versus 2011 and coupled with the degrading tire, it is really a tall order for any team to have a dominant car week in and week out.
Red Bull Racing has won the championship the last two years but this year has seen a change in pace and results for them. Ferrari lead the driver’s championship while McLaren lead the constructor’s title and this represents a real departure from the domination that Red Bull once enjoyed in 2o11. Reuters asked Red Bull driver Mark Webber who he thought had the fastest car and perhaps his answer is no surprise:
“I don’t know who’s got the fastest car,” he said. “There’s always talk that it’s not the fastest car, but you need the most consistent one. I don’t think anyone’s got the fastest car at the moment.
“We did after Valencia and then Fernando had it at Silverstone until six laps to go and then all of a sudden we had it again. And then McLaren turned up for a few weeks. And Lotus.
“Kimi (Raikkonen) pushed Lewis (Hamilton) over the line in Budapest and before that we had Fernando winning with JB (Jenson Button) there and me in Silverstone. So it is up and down,” added Webber.
“We do know we can go there (to Spa) and have a chance, no question about it. But I don’t think anyone will sail off into the distance. Those days are numbered.”
The pace of Ferrari, Red Bull, Lotus F1 and now McLaren are good examples of how unpredictable the season has been. Red Bull do seem on their back foot as we head into the summer break but as Webber says, consistency will most like rule the day and right now, Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso has been most consistent and leads the championship by 40 points over Webber. Perhaps the hardest part for Red Bull will be finding this consistency and hoping that Ferrari lose theirs.