With the first car launch of 2012 on us tomorrow it is time to start the Official 2012 F1 World Championship thread. Technical and rule changes The off-throttle blown diffuser has been outlawed. As a corollary the sophisticated exhaust systems teams used to employ are replaced by traditional 'periscope' exhausts. The maximum car nose height has been lowered from 62.5 cm to 55 cm. A byproduct of this will be really ugly, platypus-type noses. Cars must now pass the mandatory crash tests before being allowed to run in pre-season testing. In-season testing makes a return, with a session planned for May 1st at Mugello - before the start of the European leg of the championship. New rule about defending your position and leaving the track. From Wikipedia: During a safety car period lapped drivers will be allowed to unlap themselves before the safety car returns to the pits. Driver and team changes Three teams changed their names: Lotus Renault GP became the Lotus F1 Team; last year's Team Lotus is now known as Caterham F1 Team; lastly, Virgin Racing now races under the Marussia F1 Team banner. The driver market saw more changes than most had anticipated for 2012, particularly in the lower ranked teams. The return of Kimi Räikkönen to Formula 1 is the biggest news of the year, making 2012 the first season with six current or former WDCs on the grid: Fernando Alonso (2005/2006), Jenson Button (2009), Lewis Hamilton (2008), Kimi Räikkönen (2007), Michael Schumacher (1994/1995, 2000 - 2004), Sebastian Vettel (2010/2011). Favourites for 2012? Red Bull Racing are likely to be the favourites for this year as well. The big question this year will be which of the competing teams is able to close the gap to RBR - or perhaps leapfrog them. Time will tell. 2012 Race Calendar: 18.03.2012 Australian GP, Melbourne 25.03.2012 Malaysian GP, Sepang 15.04.2012 Chinese GP, Shanghai 22.04.2012 Bahrain GP, Sakhir 13.05.2012 Spanish GP, Barcelona 27.05.2012 Monaco GP, Monte Carlo 10.06.2012 Canadian GP, Montreal 24.06.2012 European GP, Valencia 08.07.2012 British GP, Silverstone 22.07.2012 German GP, Hockenheim 29.07.2012 Hungarian GP, Budapest 02.09.2012 Belgian GP, Spa 09.09.2012 Italian GP, Monza 23.09.2012 Singapore GP, Singapore 07.10.2012 Japanese GP, Suzuka 14.10.2012 Korean GP, Yeongam 28.10.2012 Indian GP, Greater Noida 04.11.2012 Abu Dhabi GP, Abu Dhabi 18.11.2012 United States GP, Austin 25.11.2012 Brazilian GP, São Paulo May the 2012 season be as thrilling as the 2011 season was.