> 2010 Predictions? No Chance!

2010 Predictions? No Chance!

Posted on Tuesday, December 29, 2009 | No Comments

Last year I predicted the outcome of the Formula One 2009 Championship by declaring that Jenson Button would be hot favourite to win driving for the very talented Ross Brawn at Brawn GP.

Reflecting on the 2010 season ahead though, I’m already having some difficulties in repeating the trend and picking another Champion. It could literally be anyone out there on grid – and as Brawn GP proved, even a newbie team could very well end up winning in their debut season (although, none of the new teams have employed Mr Brawn in fairness).

The most promising rookie thus far to be entering the fray, in my opinion, is Bruno Senna. Having watched him in GP2 a couple years back, I was impressed then – despite hitting a wild dog in the Turkish GP and having to retire on the spot whilst comfortably leading! I will be most interested in his F1 career when it starts in March.

But looking down the list of confirmed drivers for 2010, its going to make for an explosive season. First Jenson Button has moved to partner Lewis Hamilton for an all British battle at McLaren – and despite my dislike for McLaren, they did end the previous season with a pretty decent car, which puts them right on the pace going into next year. I expect Jenson to stamp his authority and show his superior skill – but it will be much closer than the competition with Barrichello.

Red Bull – despite narrowly missing out in 2009, will undoubtedly be on the pace again next season, they’ve managed to keep hold of Adrian Newey, who is the closest thing to Ross Brawn in the pit lane as money can buy. I have no doubts that Vettel will be keen to show more too.

Meanwhile both Williams and Renault – following big, major changes and new investment in both teams – will also be fascinating to keep watch over. In my opinion, Renault were wrong to let Flavio disappear from the scene and retire with the ease in which he was allowed to do so and the loss of Pat Symonds (another old school engineer of the Ross Brawn/Adrian Newey class), may show the most obvious signs of Renaults downturn. Williams, however will hopefully be a different story – new investment may allow them to stay in the development race over the course of the season – in recent years they’ve always tended to start well but fade as the season progresses.

Would anyone dare count out Force India after their impressive showing in the close to 2009? They seem to have unlocked the potential to their car and whilst I don’t expect them to challenge for the Championship, race wins could be on the cards if they play their strategies right and their car is as good and as understood.

Another exciting prospect is Kamui Kobayshi – another GP2 driver getting a chance in F1 after a couple of dare devil races for Toyota. With luck he’ll continue to be a feisty driver who will battle with just about everyone for any position going. Also the reaction to the BMW Sauber team being re-owned and ran by Peter Sauber will no doubt renew the loyalties of the employees for the team and perhaps they might produce something a little bit special.

And for me, as a Ferrari fan, comes the most interesting aspect of the 2010 season; the return of Michael Schumacher, the arrival of Fernando Alonso and the return of Felipe Massa.

Massa first of all will be keen to get back behind the wheel of an F1 car after his accident which sidelined him from the latter half of the 2009 season. He’s already proved his potential in 2008 and given the car should be able to deliver a championship win – and what a story it would be; the wild man of F1 after moving to the most famous of all teams developing and then winning the Championship; testament to why Ferrari have recently setup a Young Driver Development programme – Felipe the first to follow the unofficial programme.

Much has been written about Fernando Alonso’s arrival at Ferrari. Kimi Raikkonen moved aside early for his arrival by Ferrari Management, they obviously believe him to be “the real deal”. As a Ferrari fan and an admitted Kimi fan - his daring and skill obvious to all when he was really on it, but distant and lacklustre whenever the mood didn’t quite take him – was not what Ferrari needed as they looked towards the “Schumacher Replacement Driver”, even if he did win the 2007 season.

Alonso provides a very different style and temperament – though not without risk. Remember back to the 2007 paring of Alonso/Hamilton and the disruption that was caused within the team as a result – but who knows what Alonso’s contract stated; if he was lead driver or not. I’m positive that a repeat won’t happen at Ferrari – Massa is too welcoming and friendly and sure of his position in the team to be threatened and Alonso will be fully aware of his own ‘Mission Statement’ and role within the Prancing Horse to disrupt the team. But I believe Alonso is much more to Ferrari’s liking than Kimi was becoming in his 3 years with the team. Alonso’s battled with Michael Schumacher during 2005 and 2006 – where he beat Schumacher remember – were blinding and some of the closest racing of the decade. Despite the lacklustre cars over the past couple of years, anyone who’s kept an eye on Alonso’s performance will have seen the genius is still at work behind the wheel and his talent hasn’t faded, the results haven’t told the full tale, his consistency his greatest strength and that is similar to what Schumacher brought to the team.

The only question mark over either Massa or Alonso challenging for the Championship will be that of the car. Ferrari have to deliver a Championship winning car in order to win. Last season after the confusion over the new rules and double diffuser, they were on the back foot from the off and never seemed to recover at all – the loss of Ross Brawn a few years back hasn’t seemed as apparent as I first feared, the loss of Jean Todt from the pit wall calling strategy seemed to hurt more. Dominicali addressed that problem and hopefully with a fresh piece of paper and an early start on the design of the 2010 challenger will return the famous scarlet cars to the front of the pack.

And then there’s the final element to the up-coming season; Brawn/Mercedes. If you haven’t already realised from my writings, I have full admiration for Ross Brawn and his abilities in F1 – he really is one of the greats and more credit should have been given to him after the season ended to Jenson Button’s championship victory. My thoughts ahead for 2010 were that it would be difficult for the small Brawn team to maintain their dominance going into 2010 – their budget perhaps fading slightly dropping them a little bit behind, but still a solidly designed car (Ross Brawn doesn’t “lose it” from one season to the next), but falling back due to the attention being solely on bringing home the 2009 Championship.

But then it all changed – Mercedes have bought the team and then Ross went and secured the signature of one “M.Schumacher” as his driver to replace outgoing Champion Jenson Button. For what’s its worth – I think Jenson was foolish not to stick with Ross Brawn, if I were a driver after Ferrari the next team I’d want to drive for would be the one that had Ross Brawn heading its design team! The Schumacher effect cancels out any drop in performance – especially if he’s lost none of his speed after sitting on the sidelines for 3 years. No doubt Brawn will make sure the 2010 Mercedes challenger will be up to par for his old buddy and the budget is now more than accounted for by the Mercedes cheque book.

What is my prediction for 2010 then? I don’t know, I wouldn’t even like to try to predict anything..……I can only agree with one Bernard Ecclestone who says that “2010 will be explosive”, and he tends to know what he’s talking about.

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