Saturday, November 21, 2009

Who will race for the Silver Arrow Mercedes in 2010?

Mercedes-Benz traditionally has been one of the early power houses in F1 and finally after 55 years, Mercedes is back in grand prix racing as a constructer ever since taking over Brawn GP a few days back. Though the McLaren Mercedes alliance has been one of the most enduring one in the sport and has lasted 15 years and it is quite possible that it may even go on to last 21 years after their revised contract, in which McLaren buys back its shares while Mercedes supplies engines till 2015. For years Mercedes wanted a German driver for the team but McLaren has usually gone with Finnish or British driver and for 2010 they have pulled a major coup and has pulled the rug under Mercedes by recruiting Jenson Button the 2009 World Champion who will team up with Lewis Hamilton the 2010 Champion. It will be a dream team for all the British marketing firms as finally McLaren has two British drivers who have won the Championship in the last 2 seasons. Crucially, Button will once again bring the #1 to the team while Mercedes after buying Brawn who won both the titles last year had to go through one more season to reclaim the #1 position.

Though the team has said that it wants to become an international power house team, it is most likely to have 2 German drivers in its cockpits. Though for F1, there is nothing better than a Great Britain-Germany rivalry but then Mercedes could be forced to field 2 drivers who have raced in more than 200 races without even winning once. Well Rosberg never had a car which can win races while Heidfeld despite being a very promising driver never was in the right teams. Rosberg was considered to be the “Next Big Thing” of F1 while Heidfeld has become from being the nearly man to a vastly underestimate driver who is Mr Consistent. It may not be a team of superstars but it has enough talent and potential backed by an ideal machinery, could well go on and challenge the likes of Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull for the title.

Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, were no superstars as Button was more or less a “has-been” driver in 2009 with a single race win due to rain while Barrichello was one the world’s best # 2 driver who can be a good side-kick but never good enough to challenge for the crown but in 2009 both were fighting for the crown and now Button is a World Champion and will join McLaren while Barrichello despite his age still manages to find a seat in Williams.

For 2010 we will see Mercedes Grand Prix end up with Rosberg and Heidfeld, but you just cannot ignore 2 other drivers who had a chance to drive for the team and both are ex-Ferrari drivers. 2007 World Champion Kimi Räikkönen was in contention for a McLaren seat but due to money related issues and with Jenson Button joining the team, that option is closed but with Norbert Haug has always been impressed with Kimi and you can still have Kimi leading the charge for the Mercedes team for the next season.

The other option is something which has been going around in many circles but if you do look at the past, it was Mercedes which did support Michael Schumacher in his early career and though he has been retired from the sport for the last 3 years, he was still in contention to race for Ferrari as a replacement for Massa and if not for his injured neck, he could well have made a comeback but a more interesting link to the Mercedes team is that Ross Brawn was involved in all the 7 World Titles he has won with Ferrari and Benetton. It could be the most amazing comeback in the history of F1 and if one person can pull it off it can be only Schumacher but then he is soo much associated with Ferrari, it is actually strange to even imagine him driving for any other team apart from Ferrari but then never say never in F1 and he can be winning the championship next year with the Silver Arrow Mercedes.

One thing is sure and that is Mercedes is surely having one German driver and this is Rosberg but who will partner him is still a mystery and given the current scenario, you can expect anything and it can even lead to a Cinderella comeback for Schumacher.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

And then there was none........

The team line-up for the 2010 season was expected to be right on track after Spanish double World Champion Fernando Alonso joined Ferrari but so far only 10 out of the possible 26 seats is yet to be confirmed. Though there was some uncertainty if Toyota and Renault would stay in F1, but Toyota has pulled out of the 2010 season while Renault is still expected to stay on despite the global economic turmoil which affected the automobile industry and not to mention the spygate scandal where some former senior members of the team was involved. They have confirmed Robert Kubica as one of their drivers and actively on the lookout for another driver to partner him but all said and done, they may still end up pulling out but they should stay as an engine supplier as their customer team Red Bull Racing gave Brawn GP a run for their money and fought till the Brazilian GP for both the titles.

Jenson Button after his title victory may still not sure if he will race next year as his contract talks with Brawn is stalled and he could be the key to the driver’s market puzzle. If talks with Brawn fail, he only has McLaren as his realistic option for defending the title he won this year. McLaren would not mind a pairing of the reigning World Champion with the 2008 Champion Lewis Hamilton as that would be a dream combination in the minds of all English racing fans and would be a sponsorship coup. Though Brawn has been talking about how sponsorship has been lined up for the next 3 years and there are rumours of Mercedes buying a stake in the team but Jenson Button is actually not too expensive for a World Champion and if Brawn is still not keen on spending too much cash Button can look at McLaren but then there are stumbling blocks to it too.

The last time McLaren was in such a comfortable position when it comes to have 2 very good drivers was in the 80’s when Prost and Senna were teammates but now McLaren have enough options to choose on who will partner Hamilton in its quest of reaching the top once again. Ferrari has a very enviable combination of Alonso and Massa, while Red Bull has the wonder kid Vettel partnered by the very able Mark Webber who is one of the most underestimated driver on the grid. They can go back to Kimi would will be the ideal foil to Hamilton and if Kimi is motivate, well McLaren can pose a very dangerous combination which can take on anyone on the grid while picking Rosberg too can be an ideal scenario for McLaren as not only would that please Mercedes but Hamilton and Rosberg go a long way and there would not be any friction in the team. One thing is certain, both Rosberg and Button would drive a Mercedes powered car next year. Other options include McLaren’s former protégé Nick Heidfeld who is actually talking to every other team apart from Ferrari and RBR. Many were surprised when Heidfeld was overlooked for Kimi but though this maybe too late in his career, he can be the ideal #2 driver for the team. If the team wants a long term #2 then Sutil will be a good choice but neither Sutil nor Heidfeld would be challenging for the titles as long as Hamilton is there.

Renault has confirmed Kubica and though there was talks on Heidfeld partnering Kubica but now the team is interested in securing the services of former Toyota driver Timo Glock and if the team does races next season, the combination of Kubica and Glock would be a power house mid-field line-up. Apart from Glock the team can go back to Heikki Kovalainen, who is on the hunt for a race seat for the next season while current driver Romain Grosjean’s chances of retaining his seat is slim but long term test driver Lucas Di Grassi has an outside chance.

Toro Rosso was expected to confirm both Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari but so far only Buemi has been confirmed while Alguersuari may have some stiff competition from Red Bull backed drivers which also includes the highly rated Italian Mirko Bortolotti who broke the Fiorano lap record while testing with Ferrari and was touted as one of the potential replacements for Massa after his injury. The others includes New Zealander Brendon Hartley, who was a reserve driver for STR for some parts of the season and also Australian Daniel Ricciardo, the new British F3 champion. Among the 3, Bortolotti will be the one most likely to get the nod if Alguersuari does not make the cut as not only is STR powered by Ferrari but the team may also have long term plans for this Italian protégé.

Force India is expected to retain both Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi but former driver Giancarlo Fisichella also cannot be ruled out if Sutil ends up joining a higher profile team. Though Neel Jani and Karun Chandok may have an outside chance due to their Indian heritage.

Sauber the team to benefit most from Toyota’s withdrawal will be looking to retain current driver Nick Heidfeld if his move to McLaren fails to initialize while test driver Christian Klien may also be in the loop. If Heidfeld does drive for McLaren, then Italian Fisichella may also be in contention as the team has a Ferrari engine and Fisi is open to racing next season though he is a Ferrari test driver from 2010 onwards.

Among the new teams, Lotus F1 is surely going to make it to the grid and the mercurial Italian Jarno Trulli is being linked with the team. Among others who has been linked includes former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve, Christian Klien and Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi, who impressed everyone with his drives in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

Campos has brought the Senna name back to F1 by signing in Bruno Senna the nephew of legendary Ayrton Senna while Pedro de la Rosa was expected to take the other seat but talks have not been that fruitful and even Nelsinho Piquet may have a chance for a seat due to his good financial backings. No one has a clue on who will be signed for Manor GP and USF1, but we can rule out some famous American drivers like Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti for USF1, while experienced drivers like Anthony Davidson and Alexander Wurz will be on the radar for these teams.

Nothing is certain till the Bahrain GP of 2010 where we will actually know which teams makes it and which drivers manages to have a spot on the grid.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Over the Curbs Awards - II

Over the Curbs awards enter the 2nd season and though it was fun giving the awards last season and deciding on a few things was very tough, but at the beginning of this season, I though it should easy given that Jenson Button and Brawn during their Cinderella run were reaching immortality but as the season picked up we saw good performances from a variety of teams and drivers.

Once again it is going to be fun in naming a few drivers and teams but then this year was marked with controversy off-track that it managed to take the sheen of an exciting season. Need to go back into the F1 record books and actually look when the last time 2 non-works team fought for the title were. It should be a very interesting research.

Driver of the Season – Jenson Button

Team of the Season – Brawn GP/Red Bull Racing

The Next Big Thing - Sebastian Vettel

Most Improved Driver – Nico Rosberg

Most Improved Team – Force India

Race of the Season – Belgian Grand Prix

Best Grand Prix – Belgian Grand Prix

Worst Grand Prix – Malaysian Grand Prix

Rookie of the season – Kamui Kobayshi

Most disappointing driver of the Season – Heikki Kovalainen

Most disappointing team of the Season – BMW Sauber

Lucky to be in F1 (for the season) - Nelson Piquet Jr

Veteran of the Season – Rubens Barrichello

Comeback of the Season – Mark Webber

JV of the Season - Nelson Piquet Jr
(For the driver who talks utter nonsense like how JV used to do it in his racing days)

Most missed Driver – Felipe Massa

Least missed Driver - Nelson Piquet Jr