2010 F1 Driver Guide

It’s been all-change in Formula One since checkered flag fell for the final time in 2009, in Abu Dhabi. Gone are Kimi Raikkonen and Giancarlo Fisichella and in their place comes a whole host of rookie drivers and experienced old-pros.

With the start of the 2010 Formula One World Championship only days away, Forumula1.com gives you the lowdown on this season’s entrants and assesses the various challenges which await them.

2010 F1 Driver Guide:

McLaren

1. Jenson Button
Age: 30
Nationality: British
Debut: Australia 2000
Starts: 170
World Championships: 1 (2009)
Wins: 7
Poles: 7
Fastest Laps: 2
2009 Championship Position: 1st

A new season and a new challenge for 2009 s world champion. Button s highly-publicised move to McLaren is arguably the biggest gamble of the Brit s career to date. However, after several years at Brackley, who can blame Jenson for searching for a fresh challenge? So far the 30-year-old has settled in well at the Woking team and ticks all of the right boxes in terms of marketability. Will his relationship with Lewis be soured or will it blossom like Clark and Hill at Lotus in 1967? Although Button is revered for his smooth and delicate driving style it has been reported that he has struggled with tyre wear during pre-season testing. Therefore, the ‘Frome-Flyer must quickly overcome this problem if he is to remain on par with his plucky team-mate and prove that he is more than a one-hit-wonder.

2. Lewis Hamilton
Age: 25
Nationality: British
Debut: Australia 2007
Starts: 52
World Championships: 1 (2008)
Wins: 11
Poles: 17
Fastest Laps: 3
2009 Championship Position: 5th

Following a sensational start to his career, Hamilton got a taste of life down at the other end of the grid, thanks to the ill-handling MP4-24. However, the Brit displayed his class as the season wore on, taking advantage of numerous car improvements to snatch two wins in Hungary and Singapore. Having looked good in pre-season testing, Hamilton will be expected to have the upper hand on his team-mate for the start of the season (with many predicting a white wash). Hamilton goes into the 2010 season as one of the favourites and duly deserves this tag, as long as he does not get involved in any further controversies – the likes of which have been ever-present in his career so far.

Mercedes GP

3. Michael Schumacher
Age: 41
Nationality: German
Debut: Belgium 1991
Starts: 248
World Championships: 7 (1994, 1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004)
Wins: 91
Poles: 68
Fastest Laps: 76
2009 Championship Position: N/A

Statistically the greatest of them all, but how good is the Schumacher of 2010 in comparison to when he retired? Both Schumacher and team principal Ross Brawn believe that they can challenge for this year s title, but after a sluggish start to testing Mercedes have been forced to play catch up and rely on the introduction of new parts for Bahrain. Question marks persist over the condition of his neck, but the seven-times champion has proved that he has lost none of his pace. How will he fair up against his younger rivals? We can only wait and see.

4. Nico Rosberg
Age: 24
Nationality: German
Debut: Bahrain 2006
Starts: 70
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0 (Best: 2nd)
Poles: 0 (Best: 2nd)
Fastest Laps: 2
2009 Championship Position: 7th

2010 is surely the watershed in the career of Nico Rosberg. After several years at Williams, the son of the 1982 champion, Keke, must show his talent in a pace-setting car. Although Rosberg claimed to be boosted by the arrival of Schumacher into the team, he must surely be wary of the threat that his illustrious team-mate poses. Will he be given equal treatment? Nico must learn to cut out school boy errors and fully maximise every situation, if he is to become the real deal.

Red Bull

5. Sebastian Vettel
Age: 22
Nationality: German
Debut: USA 2007
Starts: 43
World Championships: 0
Wins: 5
Poles: 5
Fastest Laps: 3
2009 Championship Position: 2nd

Although his season was plagued by reliability issues which, ultimately cost him a fair shot at the title, Vettel proved his worth with four dominant victories. He must aim to go one better this year, and try to shake off the ‘Baby-Schumi tag along the way. The 22-year-old must prove his race craft and confidence when carving through the field – he cannot rely purely on pole-to-chequer victories.

6. Mark Webber
Age: 33
Nationality: Australian
Debut: Australia 2002
Starts: 138
World Championships: 0
Wins: 2
Poles: 1
Fastest Laps: 3
2009 Championship Position: 4th

Displaying the traditional Aussie steel and grit, Webber did not let his broken leg stop him from having his most successful season in 2009. Last season also saw Webber break his victory duck, overcoming the bad luck which has plagued him for most of his F1 career to record dominant victories in German and Brazil. Now fully healed, Webber must prove himself as a worthy title contender or risk becoming a support act to young Vettel. With only one year left on his current Red Bull deal he must be on form from the off.

Ferrari

7. Felipe Massa
Age: 28
Nationality: Brazilian
Debut: Australia 2002
Starts: 114
World Championships: 0
Wins: 11
Poles: 15
Fastest Laps: 12
2009 Championship Position: 11th

Having successfully beaten one world champion in 2008, the little Brazilian must prove himself once more against Alonso. However, Massa has fully recovered from  his horrific qualifying accident in Hungary and, judging by testing, he has lost none of his nerve. Therefore, do not expect him to simply roll over and play second fiddle. Massa heads to Bahrain with a strong record and must aim to utilize his confidence from the get-go if he is to remain on an equal footing with his team-mate.

8. Fernando Alonso
Age: 28
Nationality: Spanish
Debut: Australia 2001
Starts: 138
World Championships: 2 (2005, 2006)
Wins: 21
Poles: 18
Fastest Laps: 13
2009 Championship Position: 9th

Following two lacklustre years at Renault, Alonso comes to Ferrari more motivated than ever before. The double world champion is rightfully considered as the hot favourite for the 2010 season and has already declared himself happy with the new F10. The Spaniard remains the best ‘all-rounder in Formula One and will have to call upon all of his experience to successfully fend off the likes of Hamilton and Schumacher from outside and Massa from within. However, question marks still remain over Alonso s team-spirit after his infamous civil war with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2007. Despite this, Alonso carries the hopes and expectations of all at the Scuderia to once again bring the glory-days back to Maranello.

Williams:

9. Rubens Barrichello
Age: 37
Nationality: Brazilian
Debut: South Africa 1993
Starts: 284
World Championships: 0
Wins: 11
Poles: 14
Fastest Laps: 17
2009 Championship Position: 3rd

The acquisition of Barrichello is a match-made-in-heaven for those fans eager to see the Grove team return towards the top. Williams has looked competitive over the winter and the Cosworth engine looks to be reliable and quick. If the team are as strong as predicted in the opening races, Barrichello will be expected to maximise the opportunity and bag as many points as possible before the return to Europe. Although now 37, the Brazilian showed glimpses of past brilliance last season, taking victories in Valencia and Italy. He must show more of that form this year.

10. Nico Hulkenberg
Age: 22
Nationality: German
Debut: Bahrain 2010
Starts: 0
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: N/A

Hulkenberg s rise to Formula One has been impressive, winning the F3 Euroseries in 2008 and the GP2 Series last year. Although very fast, the young German is also error prone (remember his infamous Williams test crashes prior to this season?) and must quickly learn to balance his talent. Williams expect great things from its young protégé and if the German can display the same type of form as in GP2 last season, he ll duly deliver.

Renault:

11. Robert Kubica
Age: 25
Nationality: Polish
Debut: Hungary 2006
Starts: 57
World Championships: 0
Wins: 1
Poles: 1
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: 14th

A strong start to his career was blighted by an uncompetitive BMW last year. Now free from the uneasy atmosphere which existed at Hinwil, Kubica is much happier with life at Renault. However, the Pole faces an uneasy year with most of the other top-line drivers in faster cars. As a result, he will be expected to use all of his talent to lead the Enstone-based team back to the top, as quickly as possible. The Renault engine is touted to be the most fuel efficient in Formula One, and the team say that they masked much of the R30 s raw pace. With the Renault s future now secure, Kubica may well be the one to bring back the glory days of 2005 and 2006 – if he is patient enough.

12. Vitaly Petrov
Age: 25
Nationality: Russian
Debut: Bahrain 2010
Starts: 0
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: N/A

Petrov makes history by becoming the first Russian driver in Formula One. After a strong finish to his 2009 GP2 campaign, he must prove that his elevation to Formula One was based on talent and not on the size of his sponsor s bank balance.

Force India:

14. Adrian Sutil
Age: 27
Nationality: German
Debut: Australia 2007
Starts: 52
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0 (Best: 4th)
Poles: 0 (Best: 2nd)
Fastest Laps: 1
2009 Championship Position: 17th

When the Force India VJM02 came good, Sutil came good – proving that he could run at the sharp end of the grid in the latter part of 2009. However, the German still struggled to match the heights achieved by Giancarlo Fisichella in Spa and continued to make mistakes. Therefore, Sutil must iron out these errors in 2010 and become a consistent points scorer for the Silverstone-based squad. Especially with Paul di Resta breathing down his neck.

15. Vitantonio Liuzzi
Age: 28
Nationality: Italian
Debut: San Marino 2006
Starts: 44
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0 (Best: 6th)
Poles: 0 (Best: 7th)
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: 22nd

Liuzzi was handed a second chance at the tail end of 2009, but failed to deliver on the early promise displayed in Monza. With a glittering junior career, the Italian must capitalise on every opportunity and match Sutil pace to remain in Formula One for the long-term. Also under pressure from di Resta.

Toro Rosso

16. Sebastien Buemi
Age: 21
Nationality: Swiss
Debut: Australia 2009
Starts: 17
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0 (Best: 7th)
Poles: 0 (Best: 6th)
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: 16th

As leader of this inexperienced team, Buemi will be expected to continue the strong form which he showed at end of last season and continue to score points. Undoubtably he will have to prove his weight in terms of development with Toro Rosso expected to receive less assistance from its parent company in 2010.

17. Jaime Alguersuari
Age: 19
Nationality: Spanish
Debut: Hungary 2009
Starts: 8
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0 (Best: 14th)
Poles: 0 (Best: 12th)
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: 24th

Despite being thrown in at the deep end midway through last season, the youngest driver in Formula One has no excuses heading into 2010. The Spaniard showed flashes of speed in Suzuka last season, but also plenty of errors along the way. Therefore the youngster must iron out this recklessness if he is to remain within the sport full time.

Lotus:

18. Jarno Trulli
Age: 35
Nationality: Italian
Debut: Australia 1997
Starts: 216
World Championships: 0
Wins: 1
Poles: 4
Fastest Laps: 1
2009 Championship Position: 8th

The veteran Italian remains the master of qualifying. However, do not expect headline laps from Trulli in the opening races of the season, with the Lotus appearing to well off the pace. The ex-Toyota driver will prove his worth if he can play an instrumental role in taking Lotus forward, over the course of the year – afterall he already has first hand experience of working with Mike Gasgoyne at Toyota. If not, pressure will mount over his future. Either way, expect plenty of ‘Trulli-trains chugging along at the back of the field this season.

19. Heikki Kovalainen
Age: 28
Nationality: Finnish
Debut: Australia 2007
Starts: 52
World Championships: 0
Wins: 1
Poles: 1
Fastest Laps: 2
2009 Championship Position: 12th

After living in Lewis Hamilton s shadow at McLaren, Formula One has yet to see the full of potential of Kovalainen. The Finn will be expected to make a swift return to the form, which was ever evident over the course of late-2007 and early-2008. Like his team-mate, Kovalainen undeniably is a strong qualifier, but strangely has a tendency to let his pace drop during a race. Trulli will provide a good benchmark as the 28-year-old aims to be the best driver of all the new teams in 2010.

Hispania

20. Karun Chandhok
Age: 26
Nationality: Indian
Debut: Bahrain 2010
Starts: 0
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: N/A

Chandhok becomes India s second ever Formula One driver and is a surprise choice for the second seat at Hispania. The Indian driver hardly set the world alight in his three seasons in GP2, notching up just two wins. However, as has been shown with Kobayashi, drivers do not always require a glittering junior career to take the F1 world by storm. By signing with Hispania, Chandhok has been thrown right in at the deep end, with no substantial F1 testing, nor practice with pit stops. Like Petrov, Chandhok has to prove that he is not simply in F1 to help the sport expand into fresh markets.

21. Bruno Senna
Age: 26
Nationality: Brazilian
Debut: Bahrain 2010
Starts: 0
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: N/A

HRT head to Bahrain with an untested car – quite a set of circumstances for Bruno Senna to face in his F1 debut. The Brazilian will carry the expectations of many F1 fans who will expect him to emulate some of the achievements of his late-uncle. Joining a new team will lower the expectation levels for Senna ahead of 2010 and this will hopefully provide him with enough manoeuvrability to succeed.

BMW Sauber

22. Pedro de la Rosa
Age: 39
Nationality: Spanish
Debut: Australia 1999
Starts: 71
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0 (Best: 2nd)
Poles: 0 (Best: 4th)
Fastest Laps: 1
2009 Championship Position: N/A

After three years in the wilderness, de la Rosa returns to Formula One to lead Peter Sauber s team. With a wealth of testing experience at McLaren, de la Rosa is a formidable asset to any team, and will play a huge role in developing the C29 throughout 2010 – regardless of whether he still has what it takes on the track or not.

23. Kamui Kobayashi
Age: 23
Nationality: Japanese
Debut: Brazil 2009
Starts: 2
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0 (Best: 6th)
Poles: 0 (Best: 11th)
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: 18th

Kobayashi s debut was a breathe of fresh air for Formula One. Without proper testing, the young Japanese driver transformed himself from GP2-also-ran to an exciting F1 driver in just two races for Toyota. Nevertheless, the 23-year-old must calm his aggression and mature this season if he is to live up to expectations.

Virgin

24. Timo Glock
Age: 27
Nationality: German
Debut: Canada 2004
Starts: 36
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0 (Best: 2nd)
Poles: 0 (Best: 2nd)
Fastest Laps: 1
2009 Championship Position: 10th

Long before the demise of Toyota became apparent, Glock s decision to move Virgin was seen as a gamble. However, the German brings outright speed and the right attitude to lead Virgin in its debut year. Although his race pace is unquestionable, Glock will hope to overcome the difficulties which plagued him throughout qualifying in 2009.

25. Lucas di Grassi
Age: 25
Nationality: Brazilian
Debut: Bahrain 2010
Starts: 0
World Championships: 0
Wins: 0
Poles: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
2009 Championship Position: N/A

The Brazilian s understanding of car development will be important to Virgin this season, considering that the team is relying heavily on CFD. As a former member Renault Young Driver programme, many believed that his chance at Formula One should have came sooner – especially with the demise of Nelson Piquet at the Enstone-based team. Although he never triumphed in GP2, di Grassi was every bit as quick and consistent as some of the series past champions. Having previously won the Macau Grand Prix with Manor Motorsport (now re-branded Virgin), the 25-year-old will be right at home with the team and hope to be hot on the heels of Glock right from the start of the year.