2010 Season Preview (Part 2) - 27/02/10


With Flavio Briatore, Pat Symonds and Fernando Alonso all having left Renault during the last year for obvious reasons, it is impossible to believe that those giants of past Renault success will not be sorely missed. The implications of Crashgate on corporate sponsorship are also evident in this year’s Renault livery. The team will be hoping that the lack of KERS complications and compromises will make for a season far better than 2009’s sole podium and devastating scandal was able to provide.

The capture of Robert Kubica is a major positive for Renault, and should be celebrated by fans of the team as tremendously positive. No longer shackled by his perceived lack of title and winning ambition from BMW-Sauber, coupled with a team that knows how to win championships, Kubica is expected to mature and flourish into a proper team leader. The speed is not in doubt, one hopes Renault can provide the rest despite all of the above legacies. Whether Kubica will stay at Renault if it proves a difficult year is another matter. The second Renault belongs to Vitaly Petrov, the first Russian F1 driver in history. While Petrov is bringing finance to the team, Renault have been quick to suggest it is a fraction of the seasonal budget for the team. Petrov was the 2009 GP2 runner up, but Romain Grosjean and Nelson Piquet Jr have already shown that GP2 success does not immediately translate to F1 success.


Williams F1 have passed through another short period of manufacturer engine supply to team up with Cosworth again for 2010, Toyota’s withdrawal from F1 and the dropping of Kazuki Nakajima being contributors to this decision. There is a worry from Williams that the same costly unreliability that plagued their early 2006 performance advantage with Cosworth will return for the start of 2010, however without the performance advantage.

Rubens Barrichello brings his considerable F1 experience to Williams as championship runner up and off the back of one of his most glittering seasons. Barrichello will probably struggle to match the highs of last season unless Williams have produced their best car in years, and if they have, Rubens has demonstrated that he still has the capacity to win races and put up a fight. While Rubens may finally enjoy unofficial number one status at Williams, the team will be grateful for his renowned ability to set a car up considering the fact that his teammate is German prodigy Nico Hulkenburg. The young rookie has a marvellous record in feeder formula series, boasting a GP2 championship, a Euro F3 championship, a dominant A1GP title and even exclusion from Formula BMW finals for questionable driving. There was never a doubt about his F1 trajectory, he has enough talent and testing experience to make a real impact this year.

BMW Sauber

While the name remains, the manufacturer does not. Peter Sauber has bought back his old team in order to ensure their position on the 2010 grid. After a thoroughly disappointing season for BMW in which they were expected to blossom as genuine title contenders, the board decided that F1 was no longer a justified activity and they withdrew. That withdrawal means Ferrari will be supplying the engines for the C29 with apparently little objection to the BMW name still being in evidence for the time being.

Sauber have hired long-time McLaren tester Pedro De La Rosa as lead driver for his technical knowledge and vast experience. From winter testing it seems that the C29 has a very strong baseline upon which to build which is good news for De La Rosa. Luca Badoer’s, and less recently Alex Wurz’s, experience in an F1 race seat have clearly not worried Peter Sauber who has faith in De La Rosa’s ability to help develop a car. This may well be due to the fact that in the other car Sauber has employed the eye-catching late-season debutant Kamui Kobayashi. Star performances at Interlagos and Abu Dhabi put Kobayashi firmly on the map, and the withdrawal of Toyota made him (and their 2010 grid slot) available. Kamui is the first Japanese driver for a while who is hired on the basis of his ability and promise alone, instead of as the by-product of an engine deal or a country’s desire to start a team for their national hero. Sauber may well be hoping that De La Rosa, 39, is able to fine tune an already promising car into a competitive machine for the racy, aggressive and fearless Kobayashi.

Force India

Is this the year that everyone really takes Vijay Mallya and Force India seriously? Podiums, points and front row starts in 2009 which were certainly no fluke have added greatly to Force India’s credibility. This season their launch was earlier as was their testing debut leading to a feeling in the team that 2010 will start positively and that points will be a regular possibility on all types of circuit. Having incorporated the double diffuser from birth, the VJM03 should build on the improvements of late 2009.

Both Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi have been retained for this year, the continuity of which will do Force India no harm at all. Considering what was possible at Spa and Monza for Force India in 2009, if this year’s car allows Sutil and Liuzzi to mix it with the points scorers more often, it really is the last chance make or break season for these guys. As the team grow stronger by the year, their ability to attract the fastest drivers will increase, so Sutil and Liuzzi really must show that their own game has risen to the point that potential opportunities are closed out with points and podiums whenever possible. Sutil will probably have the edge over Liuzzi, but episodes like Singapore will have to disappear from Adrian’s equation if his career is to take the next step. Newly-appointed reserve driver Paul Di Resta is a real talent with a fantastic record in Euro F3 and DTM, limited testing will mean he has little opportunity to stake his claim for a race seat, but the extra pressure on Liuzzi and Sutil is there already.

2010 Season Preview (Part 1) - 25/02/10

Mercedes GP

The Deutsche Dream Team, the reigning constructors’ champions Brawn GP have sold a majority stake holding to Mercedes and have successfully drawn 7-times world champion Michael Schumacher out of retirement, complete with a healthy neck. For first signing Nico Rosberg, this move was always going to be the defining of his career and legacy, either he would be current champion Button’s teammate, former champion Raikkonen’s partner or legend Schumacher’s fellow Merc driver. Despite Barrichello’s open statement of warning to Rosberg, one fails to see how Felipe Massa has suffered from his time as Schumacher’s teammate. However, whether Nico forms a similar bond with a newer, hungrier, recharged Schumi and endears himself to the Brackley squad, this key moment and period in Rosberg’s career could be the beginning of the end of it. Rosberg will be hoping to steal a march on his teammate as Schumacher gets up to speed, this is a real opportunity for Nico and must be taken advantage of.

This team last year started off with the best equipment and were still capable of race wins by the end of 2009 despite a relatively tame pace of development, a credit to the racing nous of Ross Brawn and his men. If their 2010 offering has had anything like the input of the BGP-001, and Mercedes have contributed healthily to the budget, there is true potential here. Although it should be remembered that one of the main reasons Mercedes bought into Brawn GP was their ability to succeed on a tighter budget than McLaren.

Red Bull Racing

Having tasted the sweetness of a championship battle as a constructor, having had Adrian Newey’s modern and ambitious design philosophy vindicated, having a blistering talent such as Sebastian Vettel mature into a serious and intense championship prospect and multiple race winner, having Mark Webber returning to full fitness and fresh with race winning confidence, Red Bull have just had the season BMW-Sauber dreamed of. However, with the shifting of expectations and the transitory nature of F1’s hierarchy, RBR can only be aiming to have a season that Brawn GP enjoyed in 2009.

Another season consisting of race victories may be the Promised Land for most of the grid, but Dietrich Mateschitz will expect a serious championship challenge unhampered by unreliability and costly mistakes on the racetrack. There is no reason to believe that Red Bull should not be able to build another superb car, without the need to incorporate a double diffuser mid-season resulting in compromised packaging or design. Without the car advantage RBR enjoyed last year over most teams, Mark Webber may find it hard to win races this season but Vettel is now an accepted title challenger and most likely will be for years to come.


In the Latin corner, weighing in mere milligrams above the (non-vetoed) regulation minimum weight, Ferrari poise themselves for what could be a serious title fight. Double world champion Fernando Alonso joins his third team in four years in a bid to add to his drivers’ titles. Once again Alonso is joining a huge team where his teammate has already firmly established roots. Fernando will be hoping the leadership, speed, focused desire and consistency of top form for which he has become renowned will swing Maranello favour in his direction. The Tifosi will take to him with ease and he will be expected to deliver immediately. If the Ferrari F10 is born a winner, Alonso’s unquestionable duty is to make it a champion.

It will be Felipe Massa’s job to stop him. The new era of no team orders at Ferrari means the boy from Brazil will be given every opportunity to use his team knowledge and hard-earned status within Maranello to give Alonso a repeat of 2007. There appear to be no lasting effects from Massa’s Hungaroring horror, but maybe that can only truly be assessed throughout a Grand Prix weekend. If indeed he is fully recovered and Ferrari have delivered a gem, then this is a huge year for Felipe. Once again partnering a multiple world champion, Massa has enough on his side, and no excuse behind which to hide.


Once again McLaren will carry the #1 on their car, this time as a result of hiring current world champion Jenson Button to drive alongside the team talisman, Lewis Hamilton. The creation of this British F1 super-team allowed Mercedes to form Team Germany GP with Schumacher, in the process making McLaren a customer instead of a partner. Like Ferrari, it is expected that the removal of KERS systems on the McLaren will allow for a much less compromised design and rediscovered form, even though McLaren were at the sharp end again towards the latter part of 2009.

Much has been made of Jenson Button’s move to McLaren with just about every nuance of its conception drawing criticism. He’s moved for more money, but Ross Brawn would have paid him more. He’s stupid to take on Hamilton in his own back yard, but Button has said it was time for a new challenge. Unlike the situation in 2007 where Alonso partnered Hamilton, Lewis will be expected to beat Jenson convincingly this year, such is the predominant opinion on their respective talents. Button however has a marvellous opportunity to augment his reputation as a world champion who lucked into a brilliant car. If he doesn’t match Hamilton everywhere, he will have the excuse of new surroundings. If he beats Hamilton as much as he gets beaten, his stock will rise even further. Jenson’s kindness to tyres is expected to serve him well in a season where cars will run the whole race without refuelling. Lewis is expected to step up from a character-building year and use more of his newfound maturity to become world champion again.