Friday, October 30, 2009

Abu Dhabi GP Preview: The Spectacle descends on to the Emirates!

Jenson Button and Brawn GP may have wrapped up the Championship at Interlagos but there is still more important battle to be fought on track apart from the grand debut of the 1st ever Abu Dhabi GP at the Yes Marina Circuit which is not only the 2nd grand prix in the Middle East but this race is the first twilight race in F1’s history and this race would want to be the Monaco of the East.

Though Button can relax his teammate Barrichello is locked into a fierce battle for the 2nd place in the driver’s championship with Red Bull’s Vettel. Though Vettel leads only by 2 points, this seesaw battle has seen both drivers swapping places nearly at the end of each race so anything can happen and both cars are evenly matched at this circuit which has one the longest straight lines in F1. Brawn though may have won the Championships is yet to secure Button’s signature for the next season and if things do get hostile after yet another contract talk deadlock, McLaren may once again have the #1 car on the gird.

Though both Brawn and McLaren looks strong in practice Red Bull is not too far off and both Webber and Vettel will be looking for a strong showing during the race but McLaren with KERS will have a slight edge over rest of the field. Hamilton for the first time in his career is going into the last race without having the pressure of having to win the championship. He will be the favourite going into the race and he would want to finish 2009 on a high. His only condolence could be finishing ahead of Kimi who can actually race with Hamilton at McLaren for the next season. Heikki Kovalainen did not make the most of his chances at McLaren and it is certain that he would not race for them for 2010 but he would want to leave the team at a high.

Ferrari may have given up on the season but both its drivers will be pumped up for what could be both men’s last race. Kimi though may still end up with a race seat but teammate Fisi has signed on as a tester for the team and though he may still drive for one of the teams but unless Sauber gets an entry, the Ferrari powered team may have Fisi behind the wheels for them. It is highly important in terms of ego for Ferrari as they are behind McLaren by just a point and Ferrari would want to finish ahead of their arch rivals while Kimi too would want to finish ahead of Hamilton who also happens to lead Kimi by a point. Fisi will be hoping for some good luck as though he may be living a dream, but his departure from Force India was just when the team went through a surge and at times were on par with the likes of even McLaren and Brawn.

BMW Sauber will have mixed feelings going into this race as this is the last race for the BMW team. Though the team has supplied engines to the likes of Brabham in the 80’s and Williams during the early part of this decade, but apart from this season, ever since BMW took over Sauber, the team has been a force to reckon with and till last season, it overtook Williams and joined the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Renault as the new big 4 of F1. Though Kubica has secured a drive, his teammate Nick Heidfeld is yet to secure a drive and he has been linked to every other team with a vacant spot and he definitely would like to end his Sauber career a team with which he has driven for most of his career in both the BMW and the Petronas avatars.

Toyota has had a last minute revival and though Trulli had an intense battle with Force India’s Sutil outside the track, the team will be hoping for a good show on a track which is fast paced and which could help them but everyone will be looking at Kamui Kobayashi who has the speed and the driving skills to become the next Sato a highly entertaining gutsy driver though may not be consistent always but would not mind banging wheels with anyone on the track. Another good show here may seal a seat with Toyota for the next season.

Williams will have a wholesome change for 2010 as not only have they announced a new engine partnership with Cosworth but also will have a total new driver line-up for the next year. They are most likely to filed veteran Brazilian Barrichello and rookie German protégé Hülkenberg who is managed by Weber the same guy who did manager Schumacher during his glory days. Frank Williams has already given hints that Rosberg would drive for a Mercedes powered team and that could be only one of the 2 between Brawn and McLaren.

Alonso is very emotional about having his last race for Renault and this time it could actually be his last race for the French team as he would want to retire from the sport with Ferrari but then Kimi said the same thing and he could infact be making a dramatic comeback for 2010 with McLaren but Alonso doing once again with Renault may not happen. Teammate Romain Grosjean needs to drive his best ever he has drive so far if he has to retain his Renault seat for 2010.

Both STR and Force India are strong but Force India with more experienced drivers seem to be in a better position to score points while STR thought maybe in reckoning but the drivers at times make errors to just throw a race from point scoring positions and on a new technically challenging track, they need to be at their best.

Abu Dhabi GP has made tall claims on wanting to be the Monaco of the East but with a twilight race and a brilliantly designed track, they may end up having that distinction if they race turned out to be “Any One Can Win” race. Yes Marina circuit is a great addition to the F1 calendar and this track will definitely separate the talented drivers from the rest.

Abu Dhabi GP Top 8 Predictions:

1. Sebastien Vettel
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Jenson Button
4. Mark Webber
5. Rubens Barrichello
6. Kimi Räikkönen
7. Heikki Kovalainen
8. Sebastien Buemi

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jenson Button: A True World Champion

Jenson Button finally won his first F1 World Championship in his 10th season and his perseverance with the then Honda team finally paid off as Brawn dominated the season and helped him win the crown in style. Though there were lot of criticism that he was helped by driving a car which was better than any other car on the grid but unlike Hill’s win in 1996, the Brawn during the 2nd half of the season was not the best car on the grid. The likes of Red Bull and McLaren had improved a lot and at times even better than Brawn. Also the likes of Ferrari, Toyota and even Williams were nearly matching and in some circuits better than Brawn.

Rubens Barrichello his teammate who clearly was the better driver among the 2 in the 2nd half of the season should once again be unlucky to finish either 2nd or 3rd which used to be a norm during Schumacher and Ferrari’s dominance during the first half of this decade. Barrichello had the same car as Button, but he did not capitalize on the superiority of the car during the first half of the season and this result was key in Button winning the championship. Keke Rosberg won the title in 1982 by winning one race but he was consistent through the season and so far Button till the Brazilian GP has scored points in all races expect for the Belgian GP where he had to retire. You may not need to win the most races to win the championship but Button actually has won 6 out of the 16 races held so far and at one stage had won 6 out of the 7 possible races.

Thanks to a superlative first half where he had capitalized on the performance of Brawn, Jenson did not have to pull off a dare devil drive for the championship and all he had to do was to keep scoring points while his rivals took points off each other and he also benefitted from the revival of notable McLaren and to an lesser extend of that of Ferrari. Button has been in F1 long enough and though he started as a hot-shot rookie in Williams, he had been through a string of teams which includes Benetton, Renault, BAR, Honda and finally Brawn. The thing about Button was that he stuck around with BAR/Honda/Brawn for long enough and he had faith in them and it did pay off this year.

He won his first race during the 2006 season at the rain infested Hungarian GP and at one stage before that had the distinction of being the driver with most points without a win but now Nick Heidfeld has this distinction. Though he is a sort of playboy outside the track and does manage to attract some unwanted media attention, the wisest decision he made was to get off a Williams contract and he spend an estimated $30 million to buy off it and well to look back at things now, it could be one the best decisions he took in his career as Brawn looks all set to become a Mercedes backed works team post the 2012 season while Williams continues to languish in the mid-card since BMW pulled off its backing for the team.

Button has already said that he does not want to be a one hit champion and though his future for 2010 looks uncertain, he is most likely to continue in the Brawn team but don’t be too shocked or surprised if he drives for McLaren or even Toyota. Jenson Button has transformed himself from a rookie playboy racer to an elder statesman on the grid and though winning the title again may not be an easy task as both Ferrari and McLaren will be strong next season while Red Bull seems to get better every year. Also we just cannot discount either Renault or even Williams who can cause some trouble for the big teams. Button is a worthy champion and unlike his predecessor Jacques Villeneuve, Button should not blindly go after money and should drive for a team which can provide him with a car to fight for World Championships.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Brazilian GP Review: Button and Brawn wins the 2009 Championships!

It was truly a Cinderella story as Jenson Button drove a flawless raced backed by aggressive strategy by the Brawn GP team to win his first driver’s championship. Brawn GP also sealed the constructor’s championship and it was a dream run for the team who at the beginning of the season after Honda pulled out was not even sure if it would make it to the grid but now they are on top of the F1 world. McLaren sure would have rued the fact that the decision to allow Mercedes to supply to Brawn has surely backfired in the long run as Mercedes wants to make Brawn GP its work team post 2012.

Among the contenders though Barrichello managed pole and led the race during the start, the safety car did him no favours and his Interlagos jinx continued as he managed to come only 8th and thereby lost all hope of taking the fight to the Yes Marina circuit in Abu Dhabi. He may yet again finish the season as the runner-up but Vettel after a stunning race, managed to finish 4th and now he leads Barrichello by 2 points. Though the season maybe over in terms of bigger prizes but the runner-up spot for the driver’s championship is wide open and it will be an interesting tussle between Vettel and Barrichello.

Though Brawn and Button have hogged all the limelight with their championship wins, Red Bull’s Mark Webber has a very good race and won his 2nd race of his career. Ever since his win in Germany, his form has tapered and due to a variety of reasons he has not been at his best but it was good to see Webber back in form with a superb performance in Brazil. Red Bull may have finished runner-up but they did take the fight to the Brawn’s and if not for the last of consistency from the Renault engines, they may have ended up winning both the titles.

The first lap saw some crazy action as Trulli caused a crash which took out both Sutil and Alonso. Though it was deemed a racing incident, Trulli nearly came to blows with Sutil and now faces a penalty for his conduct. Heikki Kovalainen was not only involved in some incidents on track but also McLaren failed to get the fuel rig out of his car which nearly cause a major calamity in the pits. Kimi’s car was nearly torched and the race turned out to be highly unlucky for the Finnish driver who actually had a chance for a win but a bump with Webber at the first lap ruled out any chance of a win and he managed to salvage a 6th place finish.

Lewis Hamilton and McLaren after a disastrous qualifying drove one of his best races and he managed to put the ghosts of his previous Brazilian GP behind him and managed to finish 3rd. Though the season is lost for the team, they still would want to finish ahead of Ferrari in both the driver’s and constructor’s championship. Kubica came 2nd and though his car was nowhere near the pace of Red Bulls or McLarens, backed by solid strategy and very consistent driving, he showed that he is one of the most talented guys on the grid and with a good car; we can expect lot more from him.

Toro Rosso finally scored points with Sébastien Buemi coming in 7th. The last time he scored points was during the Chinese GP while STR after Monaco is scoring some points. It was good to see the team score points and do well as their back of the grid rivals Force India have just taken off and been way quicker than the Italian based team.

Kamui Kobayashi after making his F1 debut and with just one race behind him may already be the rookie of the year as it was an amazing debut for the Japanese driver as not only did he go wheel to wheel with the likes of Button but also showed no nervousness as he clearly deserves a Toyota drive for the next season and he did deserve to finish in points during the race. Kobayashi is easily the best Japanese driver currently in F1 and after Sato is the best talent to come off Japan.

It was an amazing Brazilian GP and yet again a new champion was crowned in Interlagos. It was also good to see Massa back in the pits and hopefully during the 2010 Brazilian GP, he will be fighting for the championship once again. Brawn and Button will have a major party of the Abu Dhabi GP while both Barrichello and Vettel were worthy challengers for the crown.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Brazilian GP Preview: Will Vettel and Barrichello do the Brazilian Job?

Sebastian Vettel going into the Brazilian GP looks like the only man who stands between Button and the World Championship but don’t discount Barrichello who despite his very poor record at Interlagos, can still snatch the title at the last minute from his teammate Button. Rain is also predicted and if anything goes by, then looking at last year’s race, well even with some bit of rain can turn a race topsy turvy. If it does rain, it could be another race where Vettel will expect to dominate while rivals Button and Barrichello will be dreading the rain.

Jenson Button will be keep to seal the title in Brazil as Abu Dhabi is a brand new track and anything can happen while Vettel who does not have any new engines will be giving his best and among the 3 drivers still in contention for the title, he is the one with nothing to lose and if can pull a Kimi and managed to snatch the title, he will the youngest world champion in the history of the sport. Brawn needs to back one driver and if they continue to back both the drivers and if it becomes too close heading to Abu Dhabi, things may just turn ugly.

Ferrari has stopped their focus on the 2009 car and with Alonso joining Massa, Kimi would like to end his Ferrari career on a high while FIsi though has signed on as a test driver for the 2010 season, he may actually race for a Ferrari powered team which will be Sauber if they manage to make it to the grid. We do not know where Kimi is heading next season but we do know that Ferrari will begin a rejuvenated campaign for the next season with Alonso and Massa forming one of the strongest driver’s line-up in recent times.

McLaren has been strong and though the team is not in contention for any championships, both Hamilton and McLaren would like to finish ahead of Ferrari. Heikki Kovalainen may still find a chance in McLaren if he manages some phenomenal drive for the last 2 races of the season. It is very interested to see who will partner Hamilton for the next season and McLaren does have some very good options.

Toyota managed to finish on the podium for the last 2 races and the team may not have signed a big name yet but another strong performance in Brazil could help the team in landing a big name for the 2010 season. Though the team has not categorically ruled out Trulli and Glock but with Glock ruled out for the race, Trulli will be leading the Toyota charge with rookie Kamui Kobayashi, who will be making his F1 debut.

Williams seem to have recovered and now after ending their relationship with Toyota may have an all new driver’s line-up with Rosberg most likely moving to Brawn while Nakajima who managed to have a seat in Williams thanks to Toyota. The best bet for Williams to score points will be from Rosberg once again while BMW a team which may not be on the grid for the next season will be hoping once again to score some points. Though BMW will be leaving the sport, Sauber with a Ferrari engine should make it to the gird for 2010.

Force India after the highs of Spa and Monza have failed to live up to expectations will be hoping to finish the season on a high while STR after some early season points seem to finally have a car which can get them some points provided their rookie drivers get it for them.

The last 2 seasons have seen heart breaking and pulsating races and all signs point to another nervy and edgy Brazilian GP.

Brazilian GP Top 8 Predictions:

1. Sebastien Vettel
2. Lewis Hamilton
3. Mark Webber
4. Jarno Trulli
5. Kimi Raikkonen
6. Jenson Button
7. Rubens Barrichello
8. Adrian Sutil

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Japanese GP Review: Vettel wins to gatecrash into the Championship Race

Sebastian Vettel drove his best race of the year to win the 2009 Japanese GP in a convincing style and still have a shot at the drover’s championship. With 2 races to go, Vettel is behind leader Button by 16 points and if Vettel manages to win both the races and if Button once again scores only a minimum of points, well the Briton may not actually win the Championship which was in his hands during the 1st half of the season. Rubens Barrichello crucially managed to finish ahead of Button to score 2 vitals points and the gap between him and Button is now only 14 points but Vettel has a better chance than Barrichello in the title hunt but though Button may win it in the end, he has to work extra hard for it.

Jarno Trulli had a very impressive race and with only one Toyota running, he raced in what could be the most important race for the team in its F1 history as only his 2nd place finish may have kept the team on the grid for next season, but it may also entice a driver like Kimi or even Kubica to join the Japanese outfit for 2010. It was a flawless drive from Trulli who still showed everyone that he still has it in him while Glock after his accident in qualifying could not take part in the race will feel a bit unlucky as he too would have been in point scoring position during the race.

Lewis Hamilton managed to come 3rd and though he managed to finish ahead of Kimi in the race a lot will be going thru his mind as there are enough reliable sources out there who suggest that Kimi is well on his way to McLaren for the next season. Hamilton though had a good pace he was nowhere near Vettel and even with KERS, he could not catch up with him during the early part of the race while McLaren’s KERS which was supposed to be the best on the grid had to be deactivated for Hamilton for the 2nd straight race while teammate Heikki Kovalainen failed to score points and well after the next 2 races, he may have to struggle to find a seat with a top running team once again.

Kimi and Ferrari helped by lot of grid penalties managed to come in 4th while Rosberg came 5th and though he is the only scoring Williams driver so far this season, he has single-handedly put up the fight against teams like Renault and BMW. He is by far the contender for the driver or the year and he surely cannot stay with the underperforming Williams team for another season and its time he either joins Brawn or even McLaren if he has any chance of going for the title.

Nick Heidfeld came 6th while teammate Robert Kubica missed out on the points by coming in 9th just behind Button. BMW now had found a buyer and is hoping to leave the sport on a high while both Heidfeld and Kubica are driving to just get better drives for the next season. Though Kubica is a wanted man, weirder things have happened in F1 and don’t be too shocked if Heidfeld goes to McLaren, as he was not only part of their young driver’s program but was supposed to head there before Kimi sped his was past nick into the McLaren line-up.
Apart from Vettel, all the 3 other Red Bull cars had a miserable weekend, as Webber not only pitted 5 times, he had to start from the pits after he missed qualifying due to a crash during practice and his only consolidation for the race was putting in the fastest lap of the race while Toro Rosso actually had a good car which was capable enough for points but both Buemi and Alguersuari ended up having a wild weekend as Buemi apart from crashing a few times during qualifying had to retire due to clutch issues while Alguersuari who benefited with all the penalties on the grid started from 12th but had an accident which put him off the race and got the safety car involved.

Force India was expected to do well on this track but some over ambitious driving from Sutil ensured that the team failed to score points while Liuzzi have so far done enough to suggest that he deserves a drive for the next year.

Though rain did not play a part we still saw a very strong performance from Vettel and he will go into the Brazilian GP as a clear favourite but don’t discount Rubens Barrichello who may use his home grand prix as the best place to assert himself in the title race.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Japanese GP Preview: Rubens Barrichello’s Last Stand

The Japanese Grand Prix has traditionally been one of the last races on the calendar and it has been the venue for many title-deciding races, with 12 World Champions being crowned over the 24 Japanese Grand Prix that have been hosted. Now the race comes back to Suzuka after a 2 year period when it was held at Fuji Speedway. The irony is that Suzuka is a track owned and operated by Honda and both drivers who are in contention for the title though maybe driving a Brawn GP car but still the car was very much funded by Honda before its exit from F1 and which led to the birth of Brawn GP.

Jenson Button can very much seal the title here but he is sure not to do anything hasty as with a 15 points lead, he is in a comfortable position and as long as he comings finishing ahead of Barrichello he can comfortably seal his title bid. While Barrichello is one of the 3 previous winners on this circuit and have the best car among the 3 to repeat that feat will be going in for the kill as not only does he needs a win here, but he will also be hoping that Button fails to score points as it would reduce the deficit. Though Brawn has giving hints that for 2010 he may retain both the drivers, there is a possibility of Brawn fielding a new line-up for the next season if Button’s contract talk fails while age is a factor for Barrichello.

McLaren and Hamilton should be favourites on this track as it is a very fast circuit and after their win in Singapore, Hamilton would like to have a few more wins under his belt before the season gets over. He will also be interested in finishing ahead of Kimi in the drivers’ championship. Kovalainen may not race for the team for the next season, but he has to put in a good performance if he wants to land a seat even with a mid-field team as the number of proven quality drivers on the market is plenty and race winnings seats are shrinking by the day. His best bet would be Williams or even Renault but it all depends on other drivers plan or in the end he may end up racing for any of the 4 new teams.

Ferrari has finally made it official that Alonso would join the team for 2010 with Massa meaning both its current drivers Kimi and Fisi would not be racing for them in 2010. Though Fisi has signed on as a test driver, there is a good chance he may even drive for the Ferrari powered Sauber team for the next season while Kimi has plenty of options and his decision now can lead to how the other team shapes up their line-ups. It was in Ferrari in which Kimi won his world championship and he would like to go out in a bang in the remaining 3 races of the season.

Toyota has given enough signs that it will continue to be in F1 till 2010 but the future of both Glock and Trulli is uncertain. Glock did not even take part in the Friday practice as Japanese driver Kobayashi replace him but the team has confirmed that Glock will be racing for them in the grand prix. Glock after his 2nd place finish in Singapore will be brimming with confident and a few more podiums would seal a deal with a good team for the next season while Toyota themselves need a good performance during the weekend in order to entice any of the top drivers to join the team for the next season.

With talks of rains, Red Bull once again will be in a very favourable position as when it rains, no other team can come close to the bulls while Vettel is the rain master and he could once again be in the reckoning for the title if he wins the race and both Brawns fails to finish. But it all depends on the rain and in a rain race anything is possible. Teammate Webber has been out of luck for the last few races and he would like to put that back and would want to finish the season on a high. Sister team, Toro Rosso has shown some improvement and don’t be too surprised if one its drivers actually score points in Suzuka.

Alonso and Renault had a lot of prove in Singapore and though he may be leaving the team, it was Renault which gave him 2 world championship and made him the start he is now and he would want to give something back by putting in some strong performances in the next 3 races as not only will it help the team secure some sponsorship for the next season but also get some high profile driver involve himself with the team.

BMW has showed steady progress in the last few races and with rumours of both its drivers leaving the team at the end of the season plus the new team of 2010 is not even assured of a spot on the grid though it is highly possible that not all the 4 teams will make it to the grid in Bahrain and the team will eventually make it. But it will be interesting to see how the team performances for 2010 as will it continues to be a mid-runner or slip behind the likes of Toro Rosso and Force India.

Talking of Force India, ideally this circuit should favour them and once again make them in reckoning for point scoring positions but if the team does score points in Suzuka, the team has truly arrived and its performances in Monza and Spa were just not flash in the pan one off stroke of luck for the team. With Flavio gone, Vijay Mallya would take over as being the most flamboyant man on the paddock and he surely wants his team to be a regular point scorer for the next season.

It should be a highly entertaining Japanese GP and when you add in the rain factor, it could be anyone’s race but then Red Bull would have some rain dancers as when it rains, Vettel is like a god on track.

Japanese GP Predictions: 1. Vettel 2. Hamilton 3. Kimi 4. Barrichello 5. Alonso 6. Rosberg 7. Button 8. Sutil