2010 is shaping up to one of the most exciting years in F1 history. Four world champions in the field, three new teams, and the return of the Schumacher and Senna names to the sport should be only a few of the highlights of the much-anticipated season ahead. Despite the fact that it is basically as unpredictable as a badger on acid, here, forumula1.com previews the season team by team, predicting where each will end up in the constructors’ standings on November 14th as the curtain comes down in Bahrain.
Vodafone McLaren Mercedes McLaren’s all-British line-up of the two most recent world champions was a turn up for the books, but it may just pay off. As long as Hamilton and Button get equal equipment, there should be no problem between the two, who seem genuinely to get on. The car has looked mean and quick in testing, although it may be harsh on its tyres (particularly in Button’s hands), some observers are suggesting. Prediction: 2nd
Ferrari The Maranello team enters 2010 with an extremely strong and motivated driver pairing of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, and a car which has been developed since mid-2009, like Honda/Brawn did in mid-2008. The Spain tests have apparently disproved mischievous pre-testing rumours of a disastrous aero configuration, and the Prancing Horse is up for a fight after a lacklustre 2009. The F10 has convinced many onlookers at the test that it is the overall fastest at this point, so underestimate Alonso at your peril. Prediction: 1st
Mercedes GP Although reports have conflicted concerning the true pace of the W01, it comes from solid, reliable BGP 001 stock. Another huge factor will be the return of Michael Schumacher – a gifted team manager and motivator who will surely renew his successful partnership with Ross Brawn to effect, even if his speed is not as sharp as it once was. Race wins are on the cards too for Nico Rosberg, in what will amount to the most important season of his career. Prediction: 3rd
Red Bull Renault Red Bull’s RB6 looks every bit as good as its predecessor, which means Seb Vettel and Mark Webber will run the front-runners close at many circuits this season. Three things preclude great success, it is feared: Renault’s engine, which may not have parity with the others; reliability, always an Achilles heel for Adrian Newey’s creations; and the inconsistency which ultimately ruined their 2009 chances. Vettel should be fascinating to watch against Hamilton, Alonso and Schumacher. Prediction: 4th
Williams It is difficult to imagine Williams challenging the top four teams consistently, although the partnership of the development nous of Rubens Barrichello coupled with the speed of young Hulkenberg will be a formidable one. The car may be an improvement on last year’s improvement but in the final reckoning this heroic little team will be scavengers of points, probably with their best hope in the rain. Prediction: 6th
Renault So much upheaval at the black and yellow squad cannot have been good for the development of the R30. New owners, new leaders, new sponsors (although not many) and new drivers do not bode well for a sense of optimism about 2010. Kubica will be professional and probably effective, although he will have to convince fans that he keeps fighting even when the chips are down. Pay driver Petrov is an unknown quantity as yet. Prediction: 7th
Force India The Indian squad have looked promising in testing, and the continuity of support from Vijay Mallya and speed from Adrian Sutil may well translate into the odd fourth place or even a podium here and there for the team. They will unquestioningly be ahead of the new teams and Toro Rosso, but need to aim at Williams and Renault as their direct rivals. Prediction: 8th
BMW Sauber Mischievous hacks have likened Sauber’s situation to that of Brawn this time last season, even though the C29 has not been anywhere near as fast as that BGP 001 was. It has nevertheless looked good though, doubtless a legacy of BMW’s funding allied to testing prowess from newcomer Pedro de la Rosa. Kobayashi will be the focus of many fans’ attention this season, though; can he develop into the wonder his 2009 cameos promised? Prediction: 5th
Toro Rosso The Faenza outfit have had to build their own machine this year, instead of inheriting one from Red Bull, and have come up with a relatively distinctive design with huge ridges on its nose. In the hands of Seb Buemi, it has turned in some respectable lap times in testing, and could profit at wet races in particular. On the driver front, it is time for Buemi and Alguersuari to turn themselves into candidates for the history books rather than journeymen. Prediction: 9th
Lotus Racing With a name like that, expectation weighs heavy on the shoulders of Mike Gascoyne et al in the Team Malaysia 1 camp. Sadly, results may have to wait. The car appears to be well off the pace from testing, and the driver pairing of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen is not talismanic enough to turn their fortunes round. A well-designed car should mean they are best of the newcomers, though. Prediction: 10th
Virgin Racing Nick Wirth and the team at Manor Motorsport designed this car entirely using CFD, a method derided by some other designers. It has had a probably unconnected, but nevertheless worrying, front wing failure (at Jerez), and has otherwise been remarkable for a lack of pace. But both Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi will graft for the team, and Branson will keep pouring the moolah in, so all may not be terrible. Prediction: 11th
Hispania Racing Team The team formerly known as Campos will begin life in F1 at the first race, and so can confidently expected to be last by quite some way. How anyone will be able to tell how quick Bruno Senna really is with a baptism of fire like this, is a mystery. But they have the nous of Colin Kolles to help, so all should get better. Prediction: 12th (if they last the season).