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.

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