Wednesday, 25 March 2009

F1 Preview Part 2 - Driver Line Ups And Fancies

Well before getting into the main body of this post, I should address the fact that the F.I.A. have made an eleventh hour u-turn on their decision to award the drivers championship to the participant with the most wins. The title will now be decided in the usual way, going to the man who scores the greatest number of points. Seemingly, though, the next season the championship will be taking a revised format, so these plans may not be shelved altogether.

Now, onto a quick look at who will be taking to the grid this year:


Kimi Raikkonen / Felipe Massa
An unchanged line up once again for this season, and sure to be quick out of the box. A rejuvenated Kimi won’t retire at the end of this season, whatever happens - either if he wins a second successive title or if he’s foiled by Massa or a driver from another team (that would be Lewis Hamilton, then) Raikkonen looked disinterested at times last year, and drove with little passion, but it seems his motivation and desire to win has at last returned. And Massa, who is contracted to Ferrari until 2010, is driving better than ever.

Lewis Hamilton / Heikki Kovalainen
An unchanged driver line up, featuring the current World Champion, and his underachieving sidekick. There’s no way that Ron Dennis is letting Lewis out of his sight - and where would he go anyway ? Critics of Kovalainen should remember that he has less than half a season at McLaren under his belt; at times he has been faster than Hamilton, and I'm sure that McLaren will keep him beyond the end of this year - it would be premature to dump the luckless Finn after just two years; he has to be a long term investment. Not looking quite so sharp in pre-season testing, it won’t be long before they iron out the problems and will be pushing for wins and come the seasons end, the championships.
BMW Sauber
Robert Kubica / Nick Heidfeld
Once again, an unchanged line up, although it can only be a matter of time before Kubica is snapped up for a top seat. BMW started off brightly last term, but disappointed somewhat after their maiden victory in Canada, after they shelved ongoing development in favour of putting their eggs in the 2009 basket. Heidfeld has clearly struggled to match his team-mate’s searing pace, but he is very highly regarded within his team, and it’s not as if he’s struggled to score points. Expect consistent points, and possibly podiums, but not regular wins.

Red Bull
Mark Webber / Sebastian Vettel
One of the most talented drivers in F1, Mark Webber has certainly been one of the perennial underachievers, generally through no fault of his own; but retains his seat this year, whereas veteran Coulthard has bowed out. Vettel, who is improving fast, will then make the step up from Red Bull’s feeder team, Toro Rosso, although ironically, Toro Rosso showed far more promise last year, indeed powering the young German to a win, whereas the Red Bull’s at times looked sluggish. Whether the move will prove a fruitful one remains to be seen.

Nico Rosberg / Kazuki Nakajima
That’s right people - nothing to see here, move along. Both Williams drivers performed a respectable job in 2008, in an average car, and they will keep their seat for 2009. Certainly 2009 will not be a return to the glory days for Frank’s cars, but expect them to trouble the top eight, and be in the hunt for podiums when the big boys hit trouble.

Toyota Jarno Trulli / Timo Glock
Trulli has been in F1 now for over ten years, but has been in the form of his life over the last year, and is still one of the demons of the qualifying hour, expect him to rack up numerous top six starts; and consistent running in the races should see him in the hunt for points. Glock has disappointed in his first season, but shown some flashes of brilliance – if he can drive consistently then he can become one for the future. Toyota are getting impatient for wins, but unless they encounter a huge slice of luck, then I don’t see them having the out and out power to take on the likes of Ferrari and McLaren, and may also struggle against the likes of BMW and Renault.

Renault Fernando Alonso / Nelson Piquet Jnr
Although much of 2008 was spent speculating the next move of former double World Champion Fernando Alonso, he will ironically stay put in 2009. Where would he go anyway? Not back to McLaren, nor to Ferrari, whose line-up is locked down. By the end of 2008 Renault had improved its car significantly, including back to back wins for Alonso, expect him to match this in 2009, but I fail to see enough sustained effort to mount a serious title challenge. The much pilloried Piquet Jnr, with big boots to fill had a torrid start to 2008, and will have some heavy demands on his young shoulders. Despite his years experience, I worry for his future in F1, and I believe should he suffer a similar start to 2009, he could well be joining the dole queue as an early casualty in the drivers market.

Brawn G.P. (Formerly Honda)
Jenson Button / Rubens Barrichello
Little over a month ago, the future of the Honda team was in jeopardy, with ownership in limbo and doubts over whether the team would be on the grid in any shape or form. However, something of a relevation in the last of the pre-season testing, Brawn G.P. have been indecently quick out of the box, with both Button and most senior driver on the grid, Barrichello topping near enough every session they have taken part in. However, doubts over the legality of their rear diffuser / wing setup have been rearing their heads, and should they be asked to modify these fundamental items, then they could well be staring at the rear wings of the tail end charlies. If I am proved wrong, then I will gladly hang my head in shame, but I envisage midfield obscurity, along with a generous helping of non-finishes for a team which could well struggle for funding as the toll of the year wears on.

Toro Rosso
Sebastien Bourdais / Sebastien Buemi
Bourdais will probably get one more year to adapt to F1, so he will be looking to repeat the promise we saw in his debut race last season, before ending up with a long and torrid season; Bourdais is a talented driver on the North American ovals, but F1 has once again numbed the reputation of these Indy drivers, as it did with Michael Andretti and Juan-Pablo Montoya. With the departure of Sebastian Vettel, it was widely tipped that Ayrton Senna’s nephew Bruno would have taken the seat. The team is part-owned by Gerhard Berger, who was a great friend of Ayrton’s and therefore is also close to Bruno. However the seat has gone to former Red Bull test driver Sebastien Buemi, 19 of Switzerland. Expect some raw speed, but also a few visits into the scenary for both drivers ! It would be highly unlikely that Toro Rosso will have the talent and luck on their side to revisit the top stop of the podium this season.

Force India
Giancarlo Fisichella / Adrian Sutil
Despite the wealth and publicity generated from the wealthy owner of this team, they look set to stay as the favourite underachievers of F1, particularly following the demise of Super Aguri last season. Fisichella is fast in qualifying trim, but has lacked interest and consistency in the races. If Sutil can keep his car on the road, then he is capable of scraping the odd point if things are going bad for those around him.

Some F1 fancies to finish with:

Australian G.P.
Bizzarely, Jenson Button is clear favourite to take the win; and I see no value here at all. Despite all of the pre-season hype that Ferrari and McLaren will be off the pace, I can see value in a Ferrari win; with Felipe Massa available at a widely available 6/1 (V.C., William Hill, Blue Square) and Kimi Raikkonen at 5/1 (V.C., William Hill, Boylesports, Coral). If you fancy erring on the side of caution then maybe betting on a podium finish will be more your thing ? BMW Sauber have a capable line up, and look on the pace in pre-season testing. Nick Heidfeld is available at a best priced 13/2 with Bet365, or at a huge price of 11/1, McLaren’s Heikki Kovaleinen is available with Sporting Bet, which has to be worth a punt of anyone’s hard earned.

Outright Betting
I cannot look beyond Kimi Raikkonen for the title this year – he is available at 4/1 with most of the high street bookies. However, perhaps you fancy a little more value, so to look at some of the other bets available. For example, Bet365 offer a market for the highest scoring driver without Ferrari, McLaren and BMW drivers. At a tempting 18/1 is Nico Rosberg, and 20/1 Jarno Trulli, which, should Brawn GP and Renault prove disappointing, will reward excellent payouts, as those drivers are capable of scoring consistent points and pushing for podiums when the big boys are having a bad day.
Good luck to everyone, let’s hope this season is a memorable one for the right reasons.

Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man


Paul said...

I only stumbled across this the other day! Great reading i have to say, although Comply Or Die will win the National again! I've added a link on my blog.

moDtheGod said...

Good stuff Tim, really enjoyed that. Clued me in on a sport I've not followed for ages. Doubt I'll bet, but I may end up paying a bit more attention to the season now I know a bit.

The Kenster said...

what were the odds on jenson button - must have been good??