Chequered Careers

16 Mar

Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber test their cricket skills on St Kilda Beach in Melbourne.

An unprecedented six world champions will be on the grid when the new Formula 1 season begins in Australia on 18 March. Red Bull’s reigning champion Sebastian Vettel is pre-season favourite to win a third consecutive world title, with his main rivals Australian team-mate Mark Webber (career-best third in the 2010 and 2011 world championships), McLaren pair Lewis Hamilton and Jensen Button (world champions in 2008 and 2009, respectively), and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (2005 and 2006).

Michael Schumacher completed final track testing in Barcelona before heading to Australia.

Seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher, at 43 nearly 20 years older than his compatriot Vettel, is seeking his first podium finish since returning to the sport two years ago. He was the last driver to win three world titles in a row (actually five, from 2000 to 2004), while Juan Manuel Fangio is the only other to have achieved a consecutive hat-trick (four in his case, from 1954 to 1957).

Kimi Raikonen is the sixth world champion (2007) this year, making his Formula 1 comeback with Lotus after an unremarkable stint in rally driving.

Daniel Ricciardo during pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Spain’s Pedro de la Rosa also returns to a seat at the top table, with Madrid-based HRT; while Australian Daniel Ricciardo, the 2009 British Formula Three champion starts his first full season with Toro Rosso, having been loaned out to HRT for 11 races last season.

The 2012 season comprises 20 Grand Prix, including the Gran Premio de España in Cataluña on 13 May and the Grand Prix of Europe in Valencia on  24 June, concluding with the Grande Prêmio Do Brasil on 25 November.

Complete race, team and driver information at:

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