The opening rounds of the 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship have certainly lived up to the pre-season hype. So who is hot and who is not - and will that form be maintained as far as the 2012 FORMULA 1 SINGTEL SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX
McLaren started the season in style, snatching the mantle of “the team to beat” from reigning champions Red Bull Racing. Lewis Hamilton dominated qualifying in Melbourne and Malaysia, but so far his single-lap pace hasn't yet been translated into better than third place.
Jenson Button's smoother, more consistent approach – not to mention a storming start gave him victory in Australia, but he lost out in Malaysia after damaging his car, finishing a lowly 14th. However the pace of the McLarens is clear and it is hard to rule out either Button or 2009 Singapore
race winner Hamilton for a place on the Marina Bay podium.
Red Bull Racing will return to Singapore
with high hopes of repeating Vettel's win last year; moreover both he and team-mate Mark Webber have been on the podium the past two years. However it is clear that the team does not enjoy the performance advantage of previous seasons.
In the last two races, the Red Bulls have been outgunned on horsepower by their Mercedes-powered rivals. However on a street circuit, drivability is equally important and the Renault engines score both on that front and on fuel economy, which means that the Red Bulls can start with less fuel and therefore a lighter total weight. That extra agility could make a winning difference on the Marina Bay Street Circuit.
Similarly Renault-powered, the Lotus team have clearly received a shot in the arm by the arrival of both Kimi Raikkonen and feisty rookie Romain Grosjean. Kimi still holds the record for fastest lap on the Singapore
track, set for Ferrari in the inaugural race of 2008. The big question is can the team maintain the rate of development to keep pace with their larger, more heavily resourced rivals?
Resources are clearly not a problem for Mercedes, who in addition to Michael Schumacher and Nico Rosberg, have one of the strongest engineering teams in the paddock. The Silver Arrow's appetite for tyres has so far hobbled its racing pace, but things might change before September.
Ferrari too will be hoping for a change in form. Fernando Alonso's skills have flattered the ungainly F2012 and even he admits his win in Sepang was fortuitous. However as that win, and his double victories in Singapore
in 2008 and 2010 proves, the Spaniard can never be ruled out.
The competition between the mid-field teams is tighter than ever before, with Sauber holding a slim initial advantage over a resurgent Williams team, Toro Rosso and Force India, with Caterham closing in too. There is an equally close fought battle at the tail of the order between Marussia and HRT, meaning visitors to the Singapore
night race can expect non-stop action all the way through the field come September.
This is a sponsorsed editorial