ALTHOUGH it is only July and not yet halfway through the 2012 F1 calendar, we appear to have a very early silly season, that period when the rumours start to circulate as to who is going where for the next year. Usually speculation only starts around November, but this year there seems to be fuel added to the fire already, particularly since Mark Webber signed for a further year with the Red Bull team.
The Australian's commitment removes the rumours that he was to join Ferrari and leaves the door open for another driver to be on his way to Maranello.
That, of course, is if current driver Felipe Massa is ousted, which for months now seems to be the general consensus, though in the past week many have tipped him to remain, but I would be very surprised if that is the case.
Michael Schumacher is very motivated following his third place in Valencia and is suggesting that he may well be prepared to stay on with Mercedes. Team boss Ross Brawn has said that he is prepared to wait for Schumacher's decision, but believes that this must be made by the end of the August recess.
The one name that has really been floating around in the past few months is that of Lewis Hamilton. With Hamilton's McLaren contract expiring at the end of this year, many are wondering what career move he is going to make.
The Englishman was being seen as the replacement for Webber at Red Bull if the Aussie had taken the Ferrari package. This scenario has changed and Hamilton's name is now being associated with several other teams. The thought of him joining Ferrari throws up the spectre of Fernando Alonso and him renewing the old feud that existed when they were with McLaren. I am quite sure that the Spaniard would not relish that thought.
The latest teams to be suggested as a possible home for Hamilton are Lotus and Mercedes, the latter would depend on Schumacher's decision and if it were Lotus, who would be leaving? The chances are that it would be current driver Romain Grosjean with Kimi Raikkonen remaining to team up with Hamilton. If that is the case, it would leave a very talented young driver in the market.
With Hamilton being told by McLaren's Ron Dennis that he will probably have to moderate his demands if he wishes to remain at the Woking-based team, one must wonder what the future holds. The team is not exactly on pace and is experiencing one of its worst seasons for many years, so a move to a more competitive team must be on his mind. Loyalty is all very well, but for a racer like Hamilton the ultimate is results.
The close racing this year has led to the FIA advising drivers of new guidelines regarding defending track position. FIA race director Charlie Whiting wrote to all the teams just before the start of the British Grand Prix informing them of the new parameters that will be used when adjudging incidents.
In the communication, Whiting stated : "Any driver defending his position on a straight and before any braking area may use the full width of the track during his first move, provided no significant portion of the car attempting to pass is alongside his. Whilst defending in this way the driver may not leave the track without justifiable reason. For the avoidance of doubt, if any part of the front wing of the car attempting to pass is alongside the rear wheel of the car in front this will be deemed to be a 'significant portion'."
The season has resulted in some robust moves when it came to overtaking and defending. My feeling is that, provided the move is not dangerous, we should not be too tough in applying penalties; after all, the drivers are racing, and that is what millions of fans want to see.