2008 Season Preview: Teams and Drivers

With less than a week to go before the F1 circus revs into action in Melbourne, Forumula1.com takes a quick look at the 2008 runners and riders.

Ferrari F2008

Ferrari

Car: F2008
Engine: Ferrari 056
Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen; Felipe Massa
Testers: Luca Badoer; Marc Gené

In politics much is made of so-called momentum . Ferrari have it in abundance. The team came from behind to take both championships and finished the last race of the season with what looked like an ultra-dominant car. In pre-season testing, the F2008 has been looking super quick with Kimi Raikkonen seemingly relishing the loss of traction control. There is no one better to lead the 2008 charge than the Iceman and any threat from Massa has been diminished by Jean Todt s decision to step aside for new Team Principle Stefano Domenicali.

Ferrari Form Guide

McLaren MP4-23

McLaren

Car: MP4-23
Engine: Mercedes F0108V
Drivers: Lewis Hamilton; Heikki Kovalainen
Testers: Pedro de la Rosa; Gary Paffett

Lewis Hamilton’s debut was a double edged sword for McLaren; the rookie was quick, too quick and this ultimately led to a major split between himself and rival Alonso.

The divisions in the team were made worse after McLaren were kicked out of the constructors’ championship for receiving and disseminating intellectual property from Ferrari. In terms of raw performance though the MP4-22 was just as competitive as the Ferrari and all the signs from testing are that the MP4-23 is quick enough to take the fight to Ferrari.

Hamilton is perfectly capable of leading the team and Kovalainen is fast enough to push the Briton but quiet and likeable enough not to disrupt the team if and when things don’t go his way.

Resources are an issue given the $100m fine the team received for their involvement in the spy scandal as well as the logistical problems that come with being based further down the pitlane.

McLaren Form


BMW Sauber

BMW Sauber F1.08

Car: F1.08
Engine: BMW V8 P86/8
Drivers: Nick Heidfeld; Robert Kubica
Testers: Marko Asmer; Christian Klien

BMW were very much best of the rest last year but will be hard-pressed to hold on to this accolade in 2008. The Hinwil-based outfit, like Honda and Red Bull, elected to cease development of their 2007 challenger early and pool their resources into this year’s car. The approach was a radical one and the word on the grapevine is that the F1.08 is somewhat unpredictable and unstable under braking. Nonetheless the team have one of the strongest driver pairings on the grid and have the manufacture support to challenge for podiums.

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Williams 2008 car, the FW30


Williams

Car: FW30
Engine: Toyota RVX-08
Drivers: Nico Rosberg; Kazuki Nakajima
Testers: Nico Hulkenberg

Williams, who will be celebrating their 30th anniversary in F1 this year, have been the surprise package of winter testing. The Grove-based outfit finished last year on a high when Nico Rosberg powered his way to a career best fourth place after starting tenth. This momentum has been carried into testing where both Rosberg and Nakajima have been lighting up the time sheets. Rosberg is a future champion in the making and Williams have done well to hold on to him. However one has to question if the Toyota-backed Nakajima is really in the second seat on merit. As an independent constructor there is also the issue of investment and whether or not the team can take the fight to the manufacturers with only a third of the budget. Nevertheless, all the talk is that Williams are in for a return to the sharp end of the grid in 2008.

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Renault s 2008 car, the R28


Renault

Car: R28
Engine: Renault RS27
Drivers: Fernando Alonso; Nelson Piquet
Testers: Lucas di Grassi; Romain Grosjean

The prodigal son returns to something of a broken home. Renault had a dismal 2007 battling it out in the mid-field with an extremely unstable car after two years of championship glory. If the rumours are true that Flavio Briatore was in talks with Alonso as early as the first race of the season then the team’s failure to turn things around could be due to the team pumping all their efforts into 2008. The R28 has yet to impress in pre-season testing but the Alonso factor should be enough to bring the team to the front of the mid-field pack.

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Red Bull s RB4


Red Bull Racing

Car: RB4
Engine: Renault RS27
Drivers: David Coulthard; Mark Webber
Testers: Lucas di Grassi; Romain Grosjean

With two experienced drivers at the helm and the Newey-Willis partnership working hard behind the scenes, Red Bull Racing are increasingly looking like an F1 team proper despite the somewhat excessive and flamboyant image inherent in the Red Bull brand.

2007 was plagued by reliability problems due to Newey’s quick but altogether unreliable and unstable RB3. The new RB4 has shown flashes of brilliance in testing attracting a lot of attention with it’s radical new rear ‘fin’. If new car is reliable and all the signs in testing are that it is – then Red Bull will be right up there.

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Force India s 2008 car, the VJM01


Force India

Car: VJM01
Engine: Ferrari 056
Drivers: Adrian Sutil; Giancarlo Fisichella
Testers: Vitantonio Liuzzi

Vijay Mallya brings a much needed injection of enthusiasm and cash into the former Spyker, Midland and Jordan team. Mike Gascoyne heads up an expanding technical team and the VJM01 hasn’t been looking to shabby in testing either. Adrian Sutil impressed last year though doubts hang over the motivation of Giancarlo Fisichella. That said it might be the opportunity the Italian has been looking for to reinvent himself after struggling to compete with the likes of Fernando Alonso.

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Torro Rosso

Car: STR02B
Engine: Ferrari 056
Drivers: Sebastien Bourdais; Sebastian Vettel

Torro Rosso could be in for a rough ride in the early part of the season as the team are set to start with last year’s drastically unreliable RB3. With the new requirement for gearboxes to last four races, Red Bull’s sister team could find themselves suffering from exactly the same problems that Mark Webber and David Coulthard had last year. The team don’t exactly have a fantastic base to build on in 2007, though there were glimpses of potential, most notably China where Vettel finished a career best fourth place. And oh what might have been had Vettel not taken out Mark Webber at the rain-soaked Japanese Grand Prix. The ‘two Sebs’ driver pairing is another strong partnership with the prospect of a seat at Red Bull for ’09 acting as a key motivation for success.

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Toyota F1 TF108 Car Front


Toyota

Car: TF108
Engine: Toyota RVX-08
Drivers: Jarno Trulli; Timo Glock
Testers: Kamui Kobayashi

With one of the biggest budgets in the sport, Toyota have drastically underperformed in the few years that they have been in the sport. However, Jarno Trulli is convinced that the Cologne-based outfit will surprise its competitors in 2008. The new car has some promise in testing but the real test will be how the new TF108 fares up against the Toyota backed Williams.

The Trulli-Glock partnership isn’t exactly the strongest driver-line up in paddock. Trulli has slipped into something of a comfort zone at Toyota seemingly content to battle it out in the mid-field. One wonders if Glock is the right man to push the Italian and drive competitive progression in the team.

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Honda s 2008 car the RA108


Honda

Car: RA108
Engine: RA808E
Drivers: Jenson Button; Rubens Barrichello
Testers: Alex Wurz; Mike Conway; Luca Filippi

Best not mention 2007. It was a diabolical year for the Anglo-Japanese team; the worst in Honda’s modern history. The RA107 was dogged by aerodynamic instability and outshone by its 2006 predecessor in the hands of Super Aguri. The arrival of former Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn to the struggling Brackley based team, along with a series of other high profile appointments, illustrates Honda s new found commitment to long term capacity building as well as continuing to throw money at research and development. With patience the team could return to the sharp end but it won’t happen this year. The RA108 has not shown to be a major improvement in testing though we have yet to fully see the impact of a new aerodynamic package that the team tried out last week. Jenson Button still has what it takes to win in Formula One and the arrival of Brawn can only be a good thing for Rubens.

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Super Aguri
Super Aguri

Car: SA08
Engine: RA807E
Drivers: Takuma Sato*; Anthony Davidson*
Testers: James Rossiter*
*To be confirmed

Everybody loves an underdog especially when it punches above it’s weight. And boy did Super Aguri do that last year. The team delivered far beyond expectations with Sato and Davidson getting the car into Q3 on a few occassions as well as bringing home some points. Then there was that move on Alonso.

How quickly things can turn in F1. The Honda-backed team have been forced to miss almost all of the pre-season test sessions due to financial problems and less assistance from Honda. The team are at least in Melbourne with reports that the team’s freight began arriving today. But a serious question mark looms over their continuation in F1.

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