The Desert Classic
Sunday 14th March 2010, 12pm GMT, while I play in an obscure football match, 24 cars will be lining side by side each other in Bahrain, in anticipation for the start of the new Formula 1 season, which only 8 months ago looked in doubt whether the best teams would be in it, as controversy reigned supreme. The usual really.
Then deals were signed, three new teams entered, two regulars pulled out, the champions bought out, another new team came in, one more returned and a new team dropping out. And the amount of driver changes has been massive as well, with only three teams keeping the exact same team that finished the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix back in November (Red Bull, Force India and Toro Rosso).
The new teams have sadly took the most of the attention away from what should be a very exciting title fight. Back in the Summer, Manor Motorsport, Campos Meta 1 and USF1 were all chosen from a massive group to be the three new teams to compete for the 2010 championship. Ironically, none of those teams have kept that identity now. Manor are now Virgin Racing, Campos are now Hispania and USF1 fail to exist at all.
Then, with the departure of BMW Sauber, the familiar name of Lotus returned, despite really being anything but Lotus, quite frankly the only thing in common is the name Lotus, and the sort of desperate attempt of copying the old style livery. Managing to get in two one-time race winners in Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen, will surely help the team, especially regarding the hiring of Trulli, the qualifying expert who will be most likely be the first driver from the new teams to get into Q2.
Hispania (Or HRT for the lazy people) were so close to not making it at all, Adrian Campos dream of owning a F1 team shattered weeks before Bahrain. But it was the best for the team and the FIA selection committee, as they wouldn’t have made it in any case. With the chassis made by Dallara, they could have been one of the best new teams this season, instead, with delays, lack of money and crucially, no testing. The lack of money shows, the hiring of well-paid drivers Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna will give them the stability, probably not the results.
And finally there is Virgin Racing, the clever little team trying to use computers and not wind tunnels. The snazzy Red and black car has unfortunately been in the wars more times than they hoped. Timo Glock managing to last just ten minutes before the front wing came off in their first test session. They did do well in bringing in Timo Glock, the German who manages to be in the wrong place at the wrong time (notably at Toyota for the last two years) and Lucas di Grassi, a solid little GP2 driver.
In all fairness, the new boys are unlikely to score a point. You only have to look at Force India and the fact it took them 19 races before their first points in Belgium, that was with 2 less cars as well. It is hard to see how they will get any points at all, unless there is a repeat of the 1996 Monaco GP. Which must be a very rare chance.
Toro Rosso this year are going to be in a league of their own. Not exactly in too good a sense, whilst they will be better than Virgin, Lotus and HRT, they won’t be as impressive as the rest of the field. The team remain with the young drivers in Buemi and Alguesuari, who last season picked up just a few points, mainly from Buemi (and a couple from Bourdais). The team have an updated RB5 under them, which should help, but I don’t think the drivers are good enough to do anything with it.
Last year for Force India was quite impressive, albeit if the amazing moments came in just two races. Giancarlo Fisichella stunned the world when he put that Force India on pole, then stunned them even more when he finished 2nd. That was followed up by Adrian Sutil in Italy and his 4th place. Vitantonio Liuzzi could have got some points in the same race, if he had some more luck. This year, little has changed on the car, it looks likely it will be the same one trick pony good on the tracks like Spa-Francorchamps or Monza. Its a shame for a decent driver like Liuzzi, its standard for an overrated driver like Sutil.
If you know me well, you would know that the end of last season wasn’t easy. It looked likely that my favourite team in F1 would cease to exist, with no one seemingly pulling out and the anonymity of the new owners QADBAK. Then, two miracles in one happened. Toyota pulled out, freeing up a space and then the legend that is Peter Sauber regained control. Despite no name change (although it sounds like Sauber Motorsport is the likely choice). Testing seems promising, although that may be the fact I’m refusing to listen to anyone who says its just low fuel laps to generate sponsors. They might not be one of the top 4 teams, probably 5th or 6th overall, but I’m still confident the team can do something pretty special at some race this year. Despite the unique paring of Pedro de la Rosa and Kamui Kobayashi, I think the experienced and youth duo can help each other and despite the small chances of it all, I think it’ll blossom.
Then there are Renault, a team I have absolutely no idea how to talk about them. Despite new ownership, the team name remains, but Alonso and Grosjean are out. Replacing them are the first Pole in F1 Robert Kubica and the first Russian in F1 Vitaly Petrov. I fully expect Kubica to impress in the car, which will probably be distinctly average. Petrov on the other hand, is a tough cookie to predict. Having seen exactly nothing of him and my only previous mention of the name was to spread a big rumour around the internet. He might get the odd point, but I don’t think there will be anymore. Probably all before he quietly slips out of F1 to be replaced by someone else with some promise (and money).
Williams seem to be knocking on the big four door. They have a neat little car, two very impressive drivers and a strong shout of improving on some poor recent years. Testing has looked promising for them. Rubens Barrichello may have been in F1 since 1993, but last year showed he still had it in him to win races. Nico Hulkenberg won the GP2 championship, all the GP2 champions have gone on to do very well the following season in F1 (except for Giorgio Pantano). I think Williams could sneak a win in this season, watch out for them, they are the Tottenham Hotspur to the Premier League top 4, the Wigan Warriors to the St. Helens and Leeds Rhinos domination in Rugby League. Threats. And big ones at that.
As mentioned thousands of times, there is a distinct big 4 this season. McLaren, Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari. These are the four teams with probably the best 8 drivers on the grid, all who could win a race, some who have experienced winning a championship, others coming very close. Some have the determination and others have skill. From these 8, I would not be surprised if all 8 win at least one race.
Red Bull set the standard for one of the best cars of 2009. It won plaudits and has been copied by many teams for this year. But some feel this years version hasn’t advanced far enough. Sebastian Vettel looks good once again, and with Mark Webber finally getting wins on the board, will he now take the battle to Vettel. The only concern for the team is reliability, which is what they suffered from last season.
Ferrari had a poor season by their high standards. While some would love to finish in 4th, it is somewhere Ferrari haven’t been since 1993, when they had Jean Alesi and Gerhard Berger. Last year was marred by the awful accident to Felipe Massa, but he returns along with two time champion Fernando Alonso. For the first time in two years, Alonso has been given a competitive car and a competitive team mate. The Alonso-Massa partnership will be under scrutiny from the word go, we all know how Alonso fared with Lewis Hamilton in 2007. But a competitive team mate should bring out the best out of Alonso and Massa. The two might not get on too well, but Ferrari could reap the benefits out of it all.
This time last year, Ross Brawn had saved the Honda team, kept Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and plonked a Mercedes engine on the back of the Honda designed car. Little did anyone know that in 9 months time they would be World Champions (including me, who also this time last year thought they only had quick times in testing due to getting sponsors in and such). It was just a one year stand for Brawn GP as Mercedes bought the team out. Out goes Champion Button and Barrichello. In comes Nico Rosberg from Williams, and a certain Michael Schumacher from retirement. Hardly anyone saw it coming, but his failed return for Ferrari last year showed his desire to return to racing at the highest level. There is no doubt from testing that he is equal if not better than Rosberg. Despite the team saying they will not be winning races straight away, I think they might nick off with a few points before winning in Spain or Monaco. They won’t win the championship, but they will be a very good challenge.
And finally, we move from Team Germany to Team Great Britain. McLaren offer a patriotic feel to it all, with 2009 Champion Jenson Button and 2008 Champion Lewis Hamilton at the team. Couldn’t possibly have got a better team I don’t think. Hamilton is an excellent driver and better than Jenson Button. But Button will be determined to prove everyone wrong. As well as that, they’ve sneaked in some aerodynamics that could put them on top, just.
So that’s my recap of the 2010 grid. Whilst its not all positive (imagine if Stefan GP had made it?), I hope it helps to show my views on the runners and riders. And now, a definitive list of predictions right from the World Champion to the winner of the Wooden Spoon.
- Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
- Lewis Hamilton (McLaren)
- Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
- Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
- Jenson Button (McLaren)
- Michael Schumacher (Mercedes)
- Mark Webber (Red Bull)
- Rubens Barrichello (Williams)
- Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
- Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber)
- Nico Hulkenberg (Williams)
- Robert Kubica (Renault)
- Pedro de la Rosa (Sauber)
- Vitantonio Liuzzi (Force India)
- Sebastian Buemi (Toro Rosso)
- Adrian Sutil (Force India)
- Vitaly Petrov (Renault)
- Jaime Alguesuari (Toro Rosso)
- Timo Glock (Virgin Racing)*
- Lucas di Grassi (Virgin Racing)*
- Jarno Trulli (Lotus)*
- Heikki Kovalainen (Louts)*
- Karun Chandhok (HRT)*
- Bruno Senna (HRT)*
*All 0 points **In assumption of driver changes, this is the order as if there were none
- First driver to be sacked: Jaime Alguesuari
- First crash of the season: Petrov, di Grassi, Kovalainen, Sutil, Senna, first corner, Bahrain
- First new team to reach Q2: Lotus (With Trulli)
- Maiden Winners: Nico Rosberg and Kamui Kobayashi
- Big Controversy: 2010 Chinese Grand Prix
And there we have it, my season preview completed. Free Practice 1 starts at the ridiculously early time of 7am GMT. Or for those who see sense, Qualifying starts at 11am GMT, just before the Tottenham v Blackburn game, so you won’t miss that.
I’ll get back to you in a months time, when I note that a prediction has been horribly wrong. Its going to be like 2009, but more insane.
Posted on March 11, 2010, in General F1 and tagged f1, ferrari, force india, hrt, Lotus, mclaren, Mercedes, red bull, Sauber, Season Preview, toro rosso, virgin racing, williams. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.