The season officially begins only on 14th March but already the 2010 season has garnered so much attention and this could be the most awaited and excited season in the history of the sport. Just 2 days into the first testing for the season in Valencia, Michael Schumacher has already created ripples by being one of the fastest men on track and has outpaced teammate Nico Rosberg. The irony of all this is that Rosberg was supposed to be an equal match to Schumacher given his potential but Schumacher getting behind a wheel of a F1 care after 3 years is able to outpace his teammate who is 16 odd years his junior. Maybe Barrichello was right when he joked that Rosberg should get out of Mercedes when Schumacher is also in the team.
Another return was that of Massa who was returning to the sport after the terrifying accident which made him sit most part of the 2009 campaign. Massa showed no signs of rustiness as he topped the timing for both the days of the practice and though it is too early to predict anything, Ferrari will pose a more formidable challenge this season and Alonso should be wary of Massa but then racing on empty tracks is different from the race itself and come Bahrain we will know if Massa has lost speed or is still the same.
Though the return of Schumacher and Massa has been on top of everyone’s mind, another drive made his F1 return and it is longtime McLaren reserve driver Pedro de la Rosa who will be making his debut for the BMW Sauber team during the 2010 season. He was also pretty quick and the Sauber can was impressive but the weird thing is that the team is yet to change the name as BMW is out of the sport and now the official name is BMW Sauber Ferrari which is really stupid and I don’t see why Ferrari is still quiet about it. Sauber has said for legal and commercial reasons he needs to change but if Brawn can become Mercedes, then FIA and FOM should have no problem with BMW Sauber dropping the BMW tag from its name.
A few more technical changes though minor will be enforced this season but the biggest change will be the new points system which will ensure 10 drivers score points while the driver who wins will get a big share of the points. This will make races more interesting and will make drivers challenge for places and go for the wins rather than just drive to score points consistently which along with a few races will make a driver win Championships without taking much risks.
This is a bit early for predictions but this should hold good for most of the season:
Ferrari – As a team after a disastrous 2009 the team will be going in strong for 2010 going after both the Championships. They have Alonso, who beat Schumacher twice to the title when he was at Renault while he will be joined by Massa who based on the testing so far is as good as he was before the accident. Ferrari is in a good position to win the titles provided Massa and Alonso have the sort of balance which Massa had with Kimi. Early on Massa may be the quicker of the duo but as the season progress Alonso should be very strong.
McLaren – The team had a very poor start to 2009 but they were stronger than Brawn towards the end of the season. They have the championship pair of Button and Hamilton, arguably one of the strongest line-up ever fielded by the team since the days of Senna and Prost. If McLaren produces even a car which is as good as a Ferrari, then Hamilton will be one of the favorites for the title while the mid-fueling ban could favor Button but it is still early days but one thing is certain and that is McLaren would challenge for the title in 2010.
Mercedes – Mercedes pulled off a coup of sorts towards the end of the season by 1st taking over Brawn and then bringing Schumacher from retirement to join Rosberg in an all German super team. Though Rosberg is yet to win a race and Schumacher has not raced in 3 years and is 41, based on what happened during the 1st 2 days of testing, normal service will resume and Schumacher would challenge for the title and would also outpace Rosberg. The young German will be more than happy to win his 1st race and anything more than that from him for the season may just be too much.
Red Bull – Though the team has delayed its launch by 15 days, Red Bull may pull off something this season after a phenomenal 2009 where both Vettel and Webber for challenging Brawn for both the titles. Vettel has really matured as a drive and it won’t be too long that he may be racing for either Mercedes or Ferrari but he is all likely to win a title with Red Bull while Webber will be very consistent and help challenge Red Bull for the constructor championship.
Williams – The team will have an all new driver line-up with the vastly experience Barrichello joining the highly rated German rookie Nico Hulkenberg who is managed by Wili Weber, who also managed Schumacher. Though Williams has promised a radical design, they may well be behind the likes of Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull but the chances of even Sauber being quicker than Williams is pretty high. Hulkenberg like Rosberg before him would want to use this chance to impress the big teams and Weber already is plotting Hulkenberg’s future by predicting a Ferrari drive for him within 3 seasons.
Sauber – Sauber may have never made it to the grid if at all for Toyota’s withdrawal in the end but the team not long ago under the BMW moniker was challenging Ferrari and McLaren for the title and the team which worked on the car is the same. Sauber may not pull off a Brawn but expect the team to be best of the rest and even challenge the big teams at times. Kamui Kobayashi is highly rated while he is joined by experienced test driver Pedro de la Rosa who with his years of experience will be highly useful for his skills in car development.
Renault- Though the team has Robert Kubica driving for them and has gone back to its roots with the livery but the team is not totally under control of Renault and though the team is not going to challenge the top teams it would want to be the best of the rest with Williams and Sauber expected to challenge Renault for that glory. Kubica will be joined by Russia’s 1st F1 driver in Vitaly Petrov who apart from bringing in good sponsorship money is also a very decent driver as he finished runner-up to Hulkenberg in the 2009 GP2 championship.
Force India – Last season Force India pulled off a very strong performance by being one of the fastest cars on the grid during a few races and even challenging for a win at Spa but with Sutil and Liuzzi have both the experience and the talent to challenge the mid-field pack on the grid. Force India will be hoping to move away from the back end of the grid with the influx of four new teams and challenge the likes of Williams, Sauber and Renault for a mid-field position. In all likelihood Force India should be faster than STR during the 1st half of the season.
Toro Rosso – It will be the first time the team will be building its own chassis and though the 2010 design will not be radical, it will be more of an extension of the 2010 design and in Buemi along with Alguersuari, the team has a pretty good young line-up which will finish well ahead of the new teams while it will be hoping to finish ahead of its immediate rival Force India.
Lotus – The iconic name is back on the grid but this team has no links to the Chapman led Lotus team. Among the new teams this team looks the best and it could be the 1st to score points. Having Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen in the line-up makes it a pretty decent outfit and by the middle of the season, Lotus would want to emerge from the new team pack.
Virgin Racing – Richard Branson has branded the Manor outfit as Virgin and last year he spent the least among sponsors but got the most visibility due to Brawn’s Cinderella season while this season looking for a new challenge he is backing Manor GP which is designing the 1st car in F1 history without the use of wind tunnel. The drivers will be former Toyota driver Timo Glock and joining him will be Renault test driver Lucas Di Grassi who has been very consistent in GP2. Unlike last season, this season Virgin will be happy if the team managed to just score points.
Campos – Campos was considered to be the strongest among the new teams a few months back but now the team is cash strapped and it would be something for the team just to be on the grid at Bahrain. Bruno Senna is the only announced driver while the 2nd driver is bound to be a driver who can bring in a lot of sponsorship along with him and as of now Andy Soucek, the Spanish driver who won the FIA F2 Championship along with Pastor Maldonado are the favorites to get a drive.
USF1 – The team again like Campos is struggling to be on the grid but USF1 was the first to announce its intentions of joining the grid and though some of the top open wheel drivers in US like Danica Patrick, Ryan Briscoe, Graham Rahal and Marco Andretti have all been linked to the team along with some F1 veterans like Alexander Wurz and Jacques Villeneuve. Though the team has confirmed José María López, the identity of the other driver is unknown and like López, the team may surprise once again.
2010 Constructor Championship Predictions:
2. Red Bull
8. Toro Rosso
9. Force India
2010 Driver’s Championship Predictions:
1. Sebastian Vettel
2. Michael Schumacher
3. Fernando Alonso
4. Felipe Massa
5. Lewis Hamilton
6. Jenson Button
7. Mark Webber
8. Nico Rosberg
9. Kamui Kobayashi
10. Nico Hulkenberg