The Formula 1 2012 Championship just finished the flyaway races and returns to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix on May 13. With all of the teams getting updates ready and installed on the cars, we could see big reversals of advantage. So, who did the best right out of the box, away from home and in less-than-ideal weather?
I'm grouping the teams according to the current Constructors' Championship, in groups of three. You might be surprised at where some of these teams are.
HRT cannot be too surprised to be at the bottom. They didn't do any preseason testing and fell short of the 107 percent rule for the Australian Grand Prix. HRT are almost invisible on the TV screen, so I can't see how sponsors would be interested in them. Their only real chance is pure luck.
Caterham will be the most disappointed to lie second from the bottom. They had great expectations for this year, and not much is being born out. Kovalainen did push them into Q2 for the first time. They have shown pace, but it hasn't been enough. Caterham have the best chance of this group of improving, but who knows if they will.
Marussia are, to me anyway, the surprise leaders at the bottom. They had little testing time and haven't put nearly the resources into their car that Caterham have. However, their drivers have been the most consistent and made their way the furthest up.
None of these teams have scored a point. I think Caterham has the best chance of scoring at least one. That said, a fluke result could come for any of them.
STR have been a disappointment this year. However, some of that might be down to Sauber and Lotus's improvements. In Australia I was convinced STR had done the right thing by bringing in two new drivers. Now, I'm not so sure. Maybe a new engineer would be a better investment.
Force India have had a tough start to the year. They've made improvements as of late. Di Resta has had the better of Hulkenberg so far. I think that will continue for the rest of the season. If Force India can deliver a better car, Di Resta will use it to effect.
Williams are at the top of the bottom half. As sad as that seems, it's a marked improvement over last year. Once again, a Brazillian, namely Senna, is doing a better job than Maldonado. The Williams has had real pace this year. Let's hope they can keep up and improve on what they've done so far.
Any of these teams could move into the top six. It will all come down to how well they develop their car over the season. Williams had the best beginning, but will they hold on?
Sauber have been the team of the year so far. They came ready to race and got some good results up to Bahrain. Perez got a second-place finish, and Kobayashi has been excellent. The big test is coming in Spain, when we'll see how well they develop the car.
Mercedes have got their first victory in over fifty years, and they are still in fifth place overall. A string of mishaps have led to their dismal standing in the Constructors' Championship. If they can get over their tire issues and get everything sorted out, they could easily challenge for the championship.
4th place really flatters Ferrari, and they only have it due to the talents of Alonso. Massa has been struggling and part of the blame definitely belongs to the car. Ferrari need some major updates if they are going to get up any further.
My feeling is that only Sauber are somewhat pleased to be in this group. However, it shows the strength of the top three teams. Both Ferrari and Mercedes have been race winners, and Sauber has a second place. They just haven't been able to do it consistently.
Lotus came to Australia to race. They've let a few chances slip away but have taken a big step up from last year. However, they began the same way last year and then couldn't keep up in the development race. Hopefully, they'll continue to shine.
McLaren have slightly underperformed. Button has a race win, and Lewis has three third places, and they aren't leading the Constructors' Championship. They've had trouble executing races properly, which has let them down.
Red Bull are feeling the heat this year. They just came up to first place following Bahrain, and it's the first time they've been leading. It's a far cry from last year. However, they have consistently improved, and scored plenty of points with an inferior car. Now that they've had time to sort out new updates, will they get their wings back? I hope not.
It's been great to see so many battles up and down the track this year. Hopefully, the Championship will stay this tight all season. That said, once the teams get back to Europe, we usually see a couple of teams pulling away. The only question is, which teams?