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The View From Over Here - Season Preview/Prediction

FEATURE BY JIM CASEY
14/03/2012

This weekend brings the first race of the 2012 season in Melbourne, where many questions will be answered. Has Red Bull been sandbagging, or is there going to be strong competition for both titles this year? Is Ferrari in as much difficulty as they appear, or are they sandbagging too? Which Mercedes team, McLaren or the factory boys, will prove the stronger challenger to Red Bull dominance? Will Kimi Raikkonen challenge or cruise? Which mid-range teams have the best chance to challenge? Will Williams recover from last season's debacle? And finally will any of the three stooges actually show any pace? We will start to answer this question in just a few days.

My prediction is that Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull will repeat their titles of the last two seasons, but with much closer challenges from McLaren, primarily from Jenson Button, and Mercedes, primarily from Nico Rosberg, with Alonso's Ferrari in with a chance at least a few times. Further, I'll stick my neck out and predict that Caterham will score at least a few points this year, but HRT and Marussia may both fold their tents and go home before season's end. The new US Grand Prix in Austin will probably not happen, since the promoters are busy suing each other, and the Bahrain GP should not happen, but may anyway.

This weekend, while the F1 engines roar in anger for the first time this year, I will be at Sebring for the first race in the new World Endurance Championship, which will be won by Audi in a walkover, since Peugeot's haemorrhaging accounts caused them to throw in the towel last month. The GT class battle is where the fun is, with Aston Martin, BMW, Corvette, Ferrari, and Porsche all contending for the win. The radical Delta Wing car will also be there, not to compete, but to turn some laps and put on a show.

This past weekend I was in Amelia Island, Florida, for their annual Concours event, and attended a pair of wonderful seminars. On Friday there was a seminar of the Cobra vs. Ferrari wars of the 60's, moderated by Sam Posey, and featuring Peter Brock, who designed the Cobra coupe, Bob Bondurant, who drove it to victory in the clinching race of the 1965 World GT Championship, and Luigi Chinetti Jr., and the estimable Mauro Forghieri from Ferrari. Many stories were told and laughs shared by these legends.

On Saturday there was an endurance drivers seminar, featuring Joe Buzetta, Gerard Larousse, David Hobbs, Derek Bell, Brian Redman, Vic Elford, Hurley Haywood, Sam Posey, and surprise mystery guest not previously announced, Jim Hall of Chaparral fame, and one of my all-time heroes. Derek Bell was downright poetic when he talked about driving at Le Mans at night in a Porsche 962, with the car glued to the road along the Mulsanne at 240 mph, the stars dancing through the trees, sometimes obscured by clouds.

Jim Hall talked extensively about his Chaparral's surprise win at Sebring in 1965, and Brian Redman, Vic Elford, and Derek Bell all had fun at David Hobbs' expense, since he was the only one among them never to have won Le Mans. It was a wonderful experience, and getting to shake Jim Hall's hand after it was over was genuinely thrilling.

Jim Casey
jim.casey@pitpass.com

To check out previous features from Jim, click here

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