The paddock buzz in Melbourne
Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Mar 2012   |  2:37 pm GMT  |  139 comments

The F1 paddock was in full swing today as the new season got underway in Melbourne. The atmosphere was positive, with everyone looking forward to what should be a closely fought championship. But as always there are undertones of problems in the offing. And the weather threw up some surprises with rain storms in the afternoon and evening. More are forecast.

Whatever happens from here this is an historic season already for two reasons; it’s the first time there have been six world champions in the field and it’s the longest ever F1 season with 20 races.

Although there are voices in the paddock still saying that next month’s Bahrain GP will not happen, people on the ground there have told JA on F1 that the situation is quite different from last year. One neutral reader with no axe to grind, who lives in the Gulf and visits Bahrain regularly, told me this week, “The security threat is nothing like it was 12 months ago, and as far as the race being a ‘political statement’, I don’t think normal people, even those with strong opinions on such matters, see the race as such.” However FIA president Jean Todt said after the recent FIA World Council that they “will take the right decisions at the appropriate time”, which suggests that there are still decisions needing to be made.

Other threats are everywhere; the teams are divided with the FOTA seven on one side and five teams on the outside in Ferrari, Red Bull, Toro Rosso, HRT and Sauber.

They are working together to try to control costs and the signs are that this process is about to enter a new phase where the policing of the Resource Restriction Agreement will fall under FIA management. This is something that all the teams, with a couple of exceptions, are in favour of. Ferrari support it as do Mercedes and McLaren. For it to become part of next year’s regulations it needs to be passed by a majority and that is something being worked towards at the moment.

This way, should anyone be found to have overspent, there would be the possibility of some sanction from the FIA, which FOTA did not have and which therefore made it pointless in the eyes of Ferrari.

Smaller teams running out of money is another threat, with suggestions that not every team will make it to the end of the season.

The paddock was full of the usual hubbub, people reuniting after four months apart, drivers doing a frantic round of media interviews. I spoke to Alonso, Hamilton, Button and Raikkonen today, four of the six world champions, who are ready to dive into this new season.

“F1 is about improving the car every race and it’s something we will have to do better than the others if we want to win the championship,” said a cheerful Alonso. “But I’m in the best team, I trust the team and I know that if everything goes well, before long we will fight for victories and hopefully it will not be too late. We want to be world champions in November, so let’s see how we start in March. We have managed to maximise the Pirelli tyres over a single lap, so that’s good news for qualifying and the first lap. After that it’s all about aerodynamics.”

The word in the paddock is that Ferrari has a heavily revised car under development for the Spanish Grand Prix in May. It will require new crash tests and will be designed to make the external exhaust concept work and the set up be more consistent.

This evening FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting gave a briefing on new rules and answered any questions the media had. He said that the FIA is currently satisfied that the exhausts on all cars here in Melbourne are legal,

“All of the systems we’ve seen so far comply with the extensive new regulations so our position is simple: we are not in a position to be able to say exactly how much aerodynamic influence each individual system has,” said Whiting. “The aim of the new regulation was to ensure that we don’t have to do that. We have no idea how much aerodynamic influence each individual system has, nor really at this point is it anything that interests us. As long as they comply with the rules, we are happy. And as far as we’ve seen so far, they all do comply with the rules.”

He also clarified that the FIA has never said that F Ducts are banned, however driver operated systems, such as McLaren pioneered in 2010, are banned. Another point he made was that DRS Wings are in the 2014 technical regulations, which herald a new era of F1. In other words, DRS is here to stay.

A final note from the Whiting briefing; he said that the Technical Working Group discussed in October the ugly stepped noses on the cars, but it was considered too late in the design cycle to change it for 2012. He did imply that there would be efforts made to improve the situation with a tweaking of the rules for 2013.

Practice gets underway tomorrow. All eyes will be on the Mercedes who have a clever device on the rear wing which acts like an F Duct, but is not driver operated. Whiting alluded to it today, “What it appears some teams are doing is that when the DRS is operated, it will allow air to pass into a duct and do other things,” he explained.

“That is all I can say – you will probably have a pretty good idea of what it might be doing, and other teams will as well. But it is completely passive. There are no moving parts in it; it doesn’t interact with any suspension. No steering, nothing. Therefore I cannot see a rule that prohibits it.”

The usual cut and thrust of F1 life is in full swing, in other words.

For any readers in the UK, here is the full schedule of the BBC coverage of the weekend. Jaime Alguersuari, Jennie Gow and myself will do the commentary on BBC Radio 5 Live and on BBC Online (practice sessions).

Friday, 16 March: Practice 0130-0300 and 0530-0700. Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. Live text and audio commentary on BBC Sport website
Saturday, 17 March: Practice 0300-0400. Qualifying 0600. Live commentary on BBC Radio 5 live. Live text and audio commentary on BBC Sport website. Extended highlights on BBC Two 1300-1415
Sunday, 18 March: Race 0600. Live commentary on 5 live. Live text and audio commentary on BBC Sport website. Extended highlights on BBC One at 1400-1600

Featured Video
Sign up for Jenson’s Triathlon today!
Featured News in mclaren
Share This:
Posted by:

Add comment

E-mail is already registered on the site. Please use the Login form or enter another.

You entered an incorrect username or password

Sorry that something went wrong, repeat again!

Whooo hooo, Sky F1 is amazing. Good bye BBC


I think the advantage of Mecedes F Duct will disappear quickly as all the team wil copy the concept very soon.

with the knowledge the teams had with the F Duct in 2010, they will make it work quite easily.

I guess the concept is that the air duct will be behind the top flap wing and activate when the flap is open, the duc t will see the air and wind go to the duct and blow to the wing to further reduce some more drag. it is like the more efficient DRS. it would also be better if they can make the pipe back to the blow to the frong wing.

I guess it would give 2-3 Kph more, and 0.1-0.2 at most in Qualify. But in the race, there will be a big help to make the car to easier pass the car in front .

if my guess is right, it quite easy to copy and make them work.


Whats with the new plastic/perspex pit wall fencing at Melb?

Is it for safety reasons or just cosmetic?


Fantastic first session with very quick looking McLarens and from what I can make out, they lead the order of play from Mercedes. I think Red Bull are playing games and are not as slow as they look. Meanwhile, Alonso pulls the most out of the ill handling Ferrari and must be looking to another team next year if he wants to win WDC’s. Alonso to Mercedes??? Red Bull??? Discuss


You left a discussion point out ….

Or just maybe Ferrari is fast and he he won’t have reason to leave ??? Now Discuss … 😉


Yep… Kind of agree with McHare. Depends on how ambitious Alonso is. I’m sure he’ll get paid well no matter where he goes so if he wants to win the WDC, then he’ll need to get a different drive next year.


No Ferrari need to re-structure and will be many seasons before they are in a position to challenge

part time viewer

Great to see the “propper fans” still moaning about the sky deal.

If your a proper fan then pay up and enjoy, the coverage sky are showing looks like more than weve ever had before, personaly im looking forward to it.

I know its a change from the norm but alot of things change in life, often for the better.

I wander after the weekend how many people will be saying how great the sky coverage is????


Whats all this I read in the local media down there about it costing too much and not getting enough benefits from the race. And maybe it won’t be renewed next time?

Grayzee (Australia)

All work cancelled :check!

Lounge chair ready: check!

Remote control: check!

Beverages cold: check!

Chips and nibblies: check!

USB stick in, ready to record: check!

Family members on notice: check!

Okay, BRING IT ON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


perfect checklist, will be using it on race days 😉


hahahhaha. Love your comment. I’m already jealous since I’m still at work 🙂

And since I’m in the UK, I will be up all night tonight and then going karting in the morning. I’m not expecting to win tomorrow haha :))


James! Nice to hear your voice again.

Listening and watching FP1 sky sports New Zealand


Cool! Thanks


Can’t wait for this season to start like everyone else.

James given how the front pack appear to have tightened up in terms of pace do see this year having more collisions at the front giving viewers more chance of seeing an unpredicatble result, like a Mercedes or Lotus victory?

Last year was pretty sterile in that the same teams were on the podium race after race. More aggressive driving both in defence & overtaking at the front will be key to attracting inroads in that massive potential US audience. Gentlemen start your engines!!!


No Free-TV Live coverage of Friday’s paractice here in Germany. What a shame, the first time in F1 history, what’s going on? Bernie money?


We’ve been paying for years, nothing is free anymore. Get use to it


Yip, I’ve been paying since 2000 or 2002 (can’t remember exactly) I know it must suck for those that have been getting it for free all this time having to now pay but I’m sure none of them spared a thought for those of us that have had to pay all along ;-). Ultimately it’s a business and businesses have a habit of charging you for their services.


So looking forward to the mid field battle 🙂

Chauncey Gardiner

All the best for your new commentary role




Was testing the water there James i did not think you would post it up, thought it was supposed to be a freedom of speech site as long as there was no direct personal insults?? lol 😉


You cross the line too much sometimes. Mod is very busy as it is without having to deal with that


I have a feeling that what Ferrari is referring regarding the budget cap, is obvious benefit that Red Bull has from Torro Rosso. I for one can not believe that there is no information going from Torro Rosso to Red Bull. If anything, I’m sure Helmut Marko has access to telemetry, which is one of the means of judging drivers’ performance.



What makes you think TR has better information than RB when RB makes the best and fastest car out there with TR in the middle??

It’s like saying you can’t believe there nothing from a D-grade student going to an A-grade student.

Why would an A-grade student need anything from anyone else when he’s already getting the marks?


Wow, well that’s an weekend-F1-fan kinda look at F1.

It’s about information and mileage. Also, hypothetically speaking, does this mean that today McLaren couldn’t learn anything from Ferrari’s technical data, because it finished 2011 season in front of Ferrari?

You are suggesting also, that one for one, there’s not a single tinny component or idea about Torro Rosso that is better then Red Bull counterpart? There probably isn’t because Red Bull knows about it and it develops it’s own car having both approaches/ideas in mind.


I think it’s probably the insistence that Red Bull just spends what it likes and justifies it through it’s very complex corporate structure and private slush fund from the brand. McLaren and Ferrari are not poor teams but both have complained loudly before about the RBR finances.

Obviously RBR deny it entirely but I suspect Ferrari would be willing to throw more cash at their team if it wasn’t for their hatred of aerodynamics as king and no ability to push the Ferrari engines and mechanics.


ofcourse there is collusion btwn the 2 teams, after all blood is thicker than water.

They are essentially the same team, so basically they have 4 cars on the grid which has to be an advantage at some point.

When there are interchangeable conditions at a race its always Torro Rosso who change tyres first to gauge conditions for Redbull.


Are you really suggesting RBR get their technical prowess from Torro Rosso.



You need to be naive to think that RBR knows everything and other teams like TR, HRT, FI etc have nothing new.

Just getting some telemetry data from TR could help the RBR engineers to figure new things up.

Since each car is pretty much unique, RBR could understand how having or not having a certain “plate” on the front wing might affect the performance in a corner..or at least give them an idea if not precise information.

another example that I can think of is TR running a front wing..get the data..and then change the possitioning of a plate on the wing..get the data and then check the diferences and what the new wing design did to their performance. If RBR have that info, they can probably work out what their performance will change to by having a similar pasition of a plate on their wing.

Come on Vipbox, you don’t have to be a genius to work out that every bit of information you get your hands on is very helpful.

I am not saying this is happening..but I believe this is one way to look at it.


This bitter feeling of being robbed of full taste of F1 thanks to Sky deal is back((( Means I will have to find other options online to see practices, qualy and the race. For at least this first race of the season, they could’ve given it to us!


Hi there. I’ve asked some of the readers here of some website which will show the race live and got couple of suggestions.

In the end I got my hands on a username and password for SkyGo from a friend.

I will keep it on mute and listen to James. I don’t think I ever heard James as a commentator and since I absolutely love this wensite and his articles I must hear James in action and I have no doubt I will not be dissapointed with someone with so much F1 experience.

Here’s the suggestion from our fellow readers in regards to possible online feeds or if u can get ur hands on a sky id from a friend you can watch it online on sky.


It took me all of 5 mins to find an online feed…


I am a daily reader to this website, enjoying the informative information and very interested in the views from other readers. I also stayed quite up until now on the whole business of the bbc/sky deal, as I wanted to see how I felt closer to the start of the season, and wondered for the pass few months if it was worth getting the sky package and upgrading my dinoasur of a TV to a 21st century HD model!!

Alas I didnt get the shiny new TV or sky package, for cost reasons as well as knowing that you where always able to watch for FREE, (IN THE PAST) but as the days are ticking down to the start of the season, I NOW REALISE how bad this has all become!

I have followed F1 since 94, and every year you would feel a BUZZ, counting down the weeks then the weekends and then the days until the new season starts, reading magazines and newspapers with the full contents about all the teams etc, then having the chance to watch all the new cars with their new colours and drivers and be apart of the sport.

BUT THIS YEAR I FEEL VERY VERY DISSAPOINTED. There is no BUZZ in my household, NO excitement, NO feeling of being apart of the sport.


In the words of the BBC from their website:

“BBC viewers will not miss a single important moment of on-track action all season.”

Yeah thanks for that!!

Even that information was only just released the other day from the BBC, its like they knew they had F*** UP, and kept quite for as long as they could before the season started.

But I feel that this is the whole point to this, THEY think THEY are doing good that WE as VIEWERS will not miss a ‘Single Important Moment’, but it does not say anything about the excitement, the anticipation and especially the BUZZ, the VIEWERS have felt at the start every year, instead OUR start will be 4 weeks later when the Chinese Grand Prix weekend starts.

Time is almost up on MY soapbox, and I would love to hear about other peoples views on how they feel now that the season is only days away from starting, but as this article says;

“The Paddock Buzz in Melbourne”

Its just a shame, I suppose there will be a lot of people not feeling the same BUZZ.



The driving force behind channel 10 in Australia is a young bloke by the name of Lachlan Murdoch, perhaps you have heard of his father and brother in the UK?

Accidental Mick

I kmew that I wouldn’t be watching F1 this year as I cannot afford Sky. I have found before when, for various reasons, I couldn’t see all the races that one would lose touch with the background stories and this took away a lot of the interest.

I did want to see Melbourne – it being the opener – but from your above itinery it seems that the BBC are not screening practice or qualy and are not even showing the whole race.



ummm… maybe im missing something, but isnt DRS a driver operated movable aerodynamic device?

why is it legal but the driver operated f-duct isnt?


I guess that the the top wing of DRS work as a door to opan or close the duct, so it will be legal becasue there is no activator by anything else, just the wing itself.

without DRS, this system would not legally work


Quoted from Autosport (

When asked by AUTOSPORT to clarify the situation, the head of the FIA’s F1 technical department Charlie Whiting said: “Some teams are questioning it on the basis that they thought F-ducts were banned. Well, F-ducts are not banned.

“At the end of 2010 everyone was using driver operated F-ducts and the regulations that were changed specifically banned the use of driver movement to influence the aerodynamic performance of the car – that got rid of that generation of so-called F-ducts.

“At the beginning of last year, with engineers being unable to unlearn things, they wanted to try and get the effect via different means, and they talked about opening and closing a duct by having interaction with the suspension. We said no, you cannot do that because that is not the primary purpose of the suspension system – which is to insulate the car from undulations in the road.

“There was then a lengthy discussion in the TWG at the beginning of last year about that, to make sure everyone was clear about it. It seems a couple of teams went away from that meeting with the impression that F-ducts were banned in general. Whatever an F-duct is. But they are not.”

Whiting would not reveal further details of how the Mercedes system works, but said that he viewed it as completely passive.

“What it appears some teams are doing is that when the DRS is operated, it will allow air to pass into a duct and do other things,” he explained.

“That is all I can say – you will probably have a pretty good idea of what it might be doing, and other teams will as well. But it is completely passive. There are no moving parts in it; it doesn’t interact with any suspension. No steering, nothing. Therefore I cannot see a rule that prohibits it.”


Yes you ARE missing something.

DRS, “Drag Reduction System” suggests nothing of driver-operated device, it is not “Driver Operated Drag Reduction System”. It’s a system that reduces drag, not necessarily driver operated. JA already mentioned quoting Charlie that it’s a passive system, no driver input.

C’mon read the stuff!


What are you gibbering about all the F1 DRS systems are Hydraulicly operated by the driver via button


Because ‘they’ wrote it into the rules.


It’s all about interpretation of rules looking at primary and secondary functions of parts. Scarbs has a really breakdown of it.


Because there’s a regulation to include the DRS system. That makes it legal!

Although to be honest the F-Duct doesn’t seem to be banned specifically, it was more the fear of drivers taking their hands off the wheel to operate it and the threat that drivers might end up having to operate more and more insane and expensive duct systems as well as drive at top speeds.

I’m not sure but much like the year without KERS, this was as much an agreement between teams as opposed to a defined ban on KERS.


The opening race is always exiting,

new cars, drivers and rules

I can’t wait,


who will be doing the commentary for the extended highlights, DC?


Yes with Ben Edwards


Scarbs F1 blog has a very good explanation of the Daimler F duct and blown front wing. Pretty cool stuff.


Yep, just read that too. If all the theory works, Mercedes could have a huge advantage in qualifying with the unlimited DRS use…might make gear ratios an issue in the race though. I’m guessing the Mercs will be popping away on the rev limiter in qualy like Red Bull at Monza last year.


Its great to hear Alonso being so optimistic! From what he says, Ferrari should perform well in qualifying. Let’s hope the car can be consistent all race long, it was so frustrating to see him go down the field when he put hard tires for the last stint last year.


Agree with you on Alonso being optimistic.

I dunno why but I feel Ferrari may have something up their sleeves and pants and stuff…

I recall last year, the Ferrari engineers said something based on history like if everything goes smooth in testing, then it won’t be a great year for them, and vice versa.

Maybe they were sandbagging and had something hidden from rivals in February testing? =) At least I hope so anyway.


All the best with FiveLive this weekend James!

However, I will admit that I have cracked and paid for Sky as I need to see all races live. Unfortunately, I don’t see extended highlights as really cutting it if you’re a true F1 fan.


I really wish people would stop saying that just because you can’t afford it, can’t get it where you live, or whatever other reason you have preventing you from watching on Sky that you are not a true fan. You’ve got it, well done you, but why the need to have a go at those of us who are missing the races live for the first time in 20 years. I’ll still be up watching live text and listening to 5Live because I’m going to follow as much as I can however I can. I guess you’re right, I lack dedication to the sport I love.


I wonder if the DRS F-Duct on the Merc reduces drag more effectivly during cornering.

Another theory of mine is that it regulates how much downforce is being shed, making the use of DRS even more valuable in qualifying.

This could propel the Merc way forward in qualifying, but it won’t do much for the race.


Big Game James-

Reading between the lines, are Red Bull not in favor of the FIA policing the Resource Restriction Agreement? Looking forward to this weekend.

Top Tags