2010 Season Preview (Part 3) - 15/03/10

Toro Rosso

This is the first season where Scuderia Toro Rosso can be considered a proper constructor, no longer using the same chassis as Red Bull Racing. Naturally their 2010 offering can be seen to be an evolution of last year’s Adrian Newey design, but how much longer will Dietrich Mateschitz be able to justify the expense of the second team? Much of that will be down to how Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari build on their 2009 campaigns. If either of those two prove capable of breaking into the points and performing above the other midfield runners, thereby staking a claim to a Red Bull Racing seat alongside Vettel for next year, the Toro Rosso project will still hold relevance. As for this season, a strong Ferrari engine will hopefully hold its own against the Cosworth teams who may experience some teething troubles with their package early on, allowing STR to break free.

Buemi started 2009 strongly, and ended the year with flashes of promise while not quite shining throughout. This year he will have to pick up where the last one left off, minus collisions with teammates, minus decorating vital parts of the track with debris and ruining qualifying for championship challengers. Buemi could be one of the rare breed of F1 drivers who never quite excelled in lower formulae, but on his day can outperform the car. A consistent run of results at that level will see him prolong his career. Alguersuari on the other hand was the youngest ever winner of the British F3 title and the youngest ever driver of an F1 car. Thrown in at the deep end, last year’s Japanese GP saw him sink a little beneath the surface with multiple big shunts. A winter break and a proper pre-season testing opportunity should allow Alguersuari to demonstrate the talent he has this year compared to his teammate.


Norfolk’s finest make a return to F1 in 2010 sixteen years after pulling out, but this is definitely no longer Colin Chapman’s team. Tony Fernandes, Air Asia supremo, is the force behind this return and has already shown us glimpses of what to expect by taking jibes about “Proton F1” in his stride, as well as publicly accepting a wager with Virgin’s Richard Branson where the losing team owner will dress up as a female flight attendant. This sense of humour may well come in useful as Lotus have struggled to get their car ready in time for pre-season testing and will undoubtedly play catch-up from day one. Mike Gascoyne will be leading the technical effort and will be hoping to repeat his former successes with start-up operations and low budget racing. The T127 will be running a Cosworth engine, yet there will be question marks surrounding overall reliability and performance. Lotus will be hoping to snap at the heels of midfield regulars at best.

As for the driver line-up, of the new teams Lotus clearly have the most desirable pairing in Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen. Both have driven for huge teams and won one race apiece, both are considered experienced and without a doubt a major catch for a new team. Neither Trulli nor Kovalainen have demonstrated the consistency to challenge for a title or even maintain top form for any sustained period of time, but Mike Gascoyne retains faith in the drivers he has previously worked with. He will be hoping the sporadic flashes of brilliance from both drivers over their careers so far can be melded into a productive series of results for a team whose name and heritage attract as much support as it does pressure.


Having successfully backed the right horse for his first foray into F1 in 2009, Richard Branson and his Virgin empire have transferred their backing from Brawn GP to what was Manor GP for 2010, creating Virgin Racing. To assume that Branson and co are bringing huge funding to the table is a mistake though, as Virgin are clearly more interested in succeeding on a budget. To that end, the use of a windtunnel has been completely forsaken by Virgin racing and chief designer, Nick Wirth. Virgin are focusing purely on Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) for the design and development of their cars. This is a first for F1 and Virgin will be hoping that their progress will justify the 100% CFD route, casting doubt on the need for 24 hour windtunnel usage by the established F1 teams.

The driving duties fall to Toyota refugee Timo Glock and multiple GP2 race winner Lucas di Grassi. Glock’s quality and drive are unquestioned, having impressed in just about every formula he’s participated in. The chance to be team leader and de facto #1 at a team is of course appealing, but this is clearly a step backwards for Glock who was a genuine podium challenger over the last two years. Di Grassi is the unknown quantity despite race wins and championship tilts in GP2 as well as spending time as Renault F1 test driver. Di Grassi finished second in the GP2 championship to Timo Glock in 2007, where Glock already looked the better driver if a little more prone to incidents. The Toyota F1 experience will no doubt mean that Glock will comfortably outperform Di Grassi this year. One just hopes that when the Virgin drivers radio the pits citing technical issues they are not redirected to a Mumbai call centre where they are promised an engineer will be sent out a week on Wednesday.


Campos Meta 1, now Hispania Racing Team, could not have left it later to arrive on the 2010 grid. Dallara chassis and Cosworth engine, a complete lack of testing for the drivers and the team mean that they are almost guaranteed to be the weakest of the new teams, at least initially. Jose Ramon Carabante’s purchase of the squad helped place HRT on the grid in place of USF1. Team principal of HRT, Colin Kolles, will undoubtedly bring some much needed F1 experience to the outfit having progressed beyond the days of being labelled ‘Chavski’ at Midland F1.

Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok renew a driving partnership first conceived at GP2 championship winning team i-Sport in 2008. Neither Senna nor Chandhok won the GP2 title, but Senna did come very close eventually being pipped by Giorgio Pantano, the only GP2 champion not to make it into F1 after being crowned. The return of the Senna name to F1, stirring as it is, is far more low key than the Brawn GP 2009 deal that never happened. It is a given that Bruno will have many fans and well-wishers throughout the season, but this is the stage that his career has fired him towards. It is also the stage where final judgement will be passed on his merits as a driver with a famous name. As for Chandhok, one really wonders how much preparation he has had for the Bahrain opener. Will Vijay Mallya be keeping a close eye on his progress as a future replacement for Liuzzi at Force India? Neither driver will be short of support, but the rest of the F1 fraternity will not welcome a team whose very first run of the car will be during first practice at Sakhir.

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