Next Formula One season will be a showdown to remember: Burn
Next Formula One season will be a showdown to remember: Burning rubber
Formula One kingpin Bernie Ecclestone, never a man to underplay the immense pulling power of his global Grand Prix show, reckons the upcoming season will be a pageant to remember.
And, despite his fully expected awarding of laurels even before the latest series has sprung into action, Ecclestone cannot be faulted in his opinion, especially when, as he says, without exception all the teams are fired up to grab whatever glory they can and the vast riches that accompany the crown.
Not only that, it is more than likely that three top seats will be in the offing by the 2012 season's end and that guarantees monumental effort from drivers ambitious to be in the front-runner teams, even at the cost of their friends' careers.
Let me explain... Aussie veteran Mark Webber at Red Bull is more than likely to be offloaded — if he doesn't jump first — and Felipe Massa will have to prove to his Ferrari masters that he has not permanently lost the ability that got him into the team in the first place, only for him to flop so dramatically last season.
Then there is Mercedes man Michael Schumacher, who will be in the last of his three-year comeback deal, with the past two seasons an abject disappointment for the faded legend who never even looked likely to get onto the podium, nevermind on the top step, as he had done 91 times before his bleak return.
All of this adds up to a madcap scramble among the up-and-coming stars who will split upwards of £60 million (Dh339.7 million) in wages between them as replacements for those listed likely outgoers.
I cannot imagine that champions Red Bull will be resting on their reputation as all-beaters and engineering mastermind Adrian Newey, their design genius, has been hard at work ensuring the team's latest breed of thoroughbred cars will again be forces to be reckoned with.
But the same goes for McLaren and Ferrari, the likeliest challengers to a Vettel hat-trick of titles.
We may imagine that the likes of multi-multi-millionaires Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have been denting their bank balances with stopovers and spending sprees in some of the world's holiday playgrounds — but no. After their hectic campaign, they all grabbed a well deserved, but short, break.
And now they are back on duty, behind the scenes, arduously piling up the hours on simulators at their various HQs, striving to maintain fitness levels that would challenge an Olympian and in endless discussions with team engineers and planners, as well as psyching themselves up for what should be a showdown to remember. "I believe it will be just that," Ecclestone told me over a pre-Christmas get-together lunch in London. "The teams are working flat out — Red Bull to stay ahead, the others to catch and pass them.
"And the drivers, too. All the guys I have spoken to are all revved up with ambition. With the likelihood of those top seats coming available by the end of the season, there will be a lot of effort being put in by drivers to be recognised as a candidate."