For Formula 1 fans worldwide, the 2010 Formula 1 season cannot underway quickly enough, and is creating the biggest buzz I’ve seen in my twenty-odd years of actively watching F1.
Let’s look at what we’ve got: We have four World Champions competing on the grid. We have a host of significant comebacks on both the driver and team fronts. We have three new teams and five new drivers making their debuts this season. We have a new circuit to expand the calendar to a record-equalling 19 races this season. We have restricted pre-season testing that hasn’t given any of us a clear form guide, and we’ve been given further rule changes aimed to spice things up on-track.
What’s not to look forward to?
Let’s look at the field…
The grid of 24 cars – chopped from 26 after the much-expected demise of USF1 and the FIA’s refusal to grant the shady Serbians at Stefan GP a last minute entry – will be the largest we’ve seen in 15 years. It also sees the entry list more shaken up than in recent memory. Mercedes will compete as a stand-alone constructor for the first time since 1955. Peter Sauber makes a welcome and thankful return as a team owner in his own right after saving the BMW Sauber team from disappearance altogether. Nearly gone were Renault, who appear this year 75% owned by the Genii Capital Group and with a complete management restructure. The Lotus name is back for the first time since 1994, and debate still rages as to whether its a reincarnation of the once-great team or a new entity with its tradition in name only. Virgin Racing arrives with its all-CFD design, The unfortunately-acronymed Hispania Racing Team has confirmed its appearance at the last-minute, having managed a successful buy-out of its earlier Campos Meta incarnation. And the less said about USF1…
|On the engine front, gone are Toyota and BMW as constructors and engine suppliers, as applicable. Cosworth returns, and will be powering all of the new teams and Williams to boot. Sauber pick up a customer Ferrari powerplant, in spite of retaining the ‘BMW’ moniker in their official team name – how long until that’s ditched?|
Undoubtedly, it is the return of Michael Schumacher that has utterly dominated the F1 headlines for the last few months. Aside from Rubens Barrichello, he is the only driver in the field to have raced in the ‘no refuelling’ era. At 41, he will be F1’s oldest competitor in over 15 years. Debate as to why he’s returning has come from a range of sectors and contained a range of opinions. Be he selfish or duty-bound, ambitious or insane, on thing is certain: he still hasn’t got the F1 bug out of his system and he still has the pace. But can he replicate his success from his halcyon days? How will he fare against the younger drivers who are eager to make their mark against F1’s most successful driver?
Outside of Schumacher’s return, the driver market underwent its biggest reshuffle in several seasons. in spite of everyone knowing it, Ferrari rook an eternity to announce Fernando Alonso would move from Renault to Maranello. Felipe Massa had recovered from his terrible accident at Hungary and would be racing in 2010, leaving no room for the incumbent Kimi Raikkonen at the inn, and he went off to rallying. Both Brawn GP drivers left as it underwent its metamorphosis into Mercedes GP, with championship runner-up Rubens Barrichello doing a straight swap with Nico Rosberg to go to Williams. At McLaren, out went Heikki Kovalainen (off to Lotus) and in came Jenson Button to partner long-time stalwart, Lewis Hamilton. Renault lost both its drivers and brought in Robert Kubica and Russia’s Vitaly Petrov. At Williams, Kazuki Nakajima was shown the door and in came a Schumacher protégé, Nico Hülkenberg. Toyota’s collapse saw Jarno Trulli join Lotus, Timo Glock join Virgin and Kamui Kobayashi found a lifeline at Sauber alongside Pedro de la Rosa when it was bought back from BMW. Of the 2009 drivers not feature prominently, Nick Heidfeld surprisingly couldn’t secure a race seat anywhere, Giancarlo Fisichella is off to Le Mans and Romain Grosjean was justifiably given the flick. The rookie teams plumped for a few rookie drivers, and at HRT we see Bruno Senna and Karun Chandhok, and Virgin takes on Lucas di Grassi. Interestingly, of the three teams that have historically been the most prone to hire and fire their drivers, Force India, Red Bull and Toro Rosso kept their 2009 drivers on board!
With the circuits, back comes Canada and in comes Korea to host its first Grand Prix on yet another Tilke-Drome. Bahrain and Silverstone will both feature revised track layouts, which need to work to boost the former’s flailing attendance records, but will do no end of good for the latter which is secure for the next 17 years. The mighty Istanbul circuit is also struggling with attendance figures and its position on the calendar might be the cork in the bottle that could allow Russia, India and (dare we think it!) the USA onto the calendar. Couple this with news that Rome will have its own street race. Will someone please dump Valencia from the calendar?!?!
The rules have been given a further shake-up, with the introduction of narrower front tyres and longer wheelbases, the latter to accommodate for the 160L fuel tanks now being housed, with race refuelling now banned. Out goes KERS, which was an inordinately expensive exercise in spite of its relevance.
The removal of refuelling now puts the onus back on the driver who can manage his tyre wear, and the engines for not being too thirsty. Compromising these with the ever-reducing weight of the car calls upon an entirely different skill set for the driver this year, and we could see more overtaking as a result – particularly with the points system changing as well!
Finally, F1 appears to have settled into more peaceful times, and there is a genuine sense of camaraderie among the teams – that is, when Ferrari doesn’t fly off the handle!
Will we finally see a season when the main action is rightfully about what happens on the track than off it? All of the pieces of the puzzle appear to indicate it; let’s see how long it takes to piece them together!
I can’t wait!