Archive for the ‘Drivers’ Category

Welcome to 2010!

January 19th, 2010 2 comments

F1 Buzz isn’t dead. We’ve just been taking a little holiday!

There is now less than two months until the 2010 Formula One season kicks off in Bahrain and less than two weeks until the first test in Valencia, so now might be a good time for a round up of who will be driving what this year.

BMW Sauber announced on Tuesday that ex-McLaren test driver, Pedro de la Rosa, will be partnering rookie Kamui Kobayashi at the Swiss team. What a great driver lineup Sauber have this year! De la Rosa is one of the most experienced test drivers in the business and I’ve always liked watching him when he has had the chance to race. The pairing of his experience and car development skills with the banzai driving style of Kamui Kobayashi mean BMW Sauber will be a team I will be watching closely this year.

Kimi Raikkonen has been ejected from Ferrari in favour of two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso. Felipe Massa could find himself under pressure as he returns to Formula One after his terrible accident at last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix. Massa and Alonso have not been the best of friends in the past but Massa is insisting they will have a good relationship saying:

I’ve spoken more to Fernando now than in three years with Kimi.

McLaren have the dream team of back to back British World Champions with Jenson Button confident he can do well at the team many people think is built around Lewis Hamilton. If the pace of McLaren’s development at the end of 2009 is anything to go by, the new MP4-25 should be a serious contender and it will be great to watch Button and Hamilton in equal machinery.

The team formerly known as Brawn will be the home of the new Silver Arrows as Mercedes take over last year’s Constructors Champions. This will be another team to watch in 2010. The Mercedes engine is probably the best on the grid and Nico Rosberg should finally have the car underneath him to make him a serious Championship contender. Of course, he may feel a little intimidated by having the most successful Formula One driver in history as a team mate, but while Michael Schumacher will no doubt be competitive, he hasn’t raced in F1 for a few years so it will be interesting to compare his performance against Rosberg.

Red Bull and Force India are the only two teams to carry over the same drivers from the last race of 2009 to the 2010 season. Last year saw Force India’s first podium and Mark Webber’s first win. Both will be trying for one better in 2010.

Everyone’s favourite number 2 driver, Rubens Barrichello, will partner rookie Nico Hulkenberg at Williams. Along with the four new teams on the grid Williams will be using Cosworth power this year. The last time Cosworth competed in Formula One was 2006 so it will be interesting to see if their engine has the required performance and reliability.

Jarno Trulli (the rolling roadblock) and Heikki Kovalainen (the flying Finn) have landed seats at new team Lotus. I think with these two experienced drivers, Mike Gascoyne in charge and a name like Lotus the Malaysian team could be one to watch in 2010 and the years to come.

Ex-Toyota driver Timo Glock will partner ex-GP2 driver Lucas di Grassi at Virgin. I have no idea what to expect of this team but although they will miss the first test the team claim that they are still ahead of schedule and will be at the second test in Jerez.

The remaining teams are yet to announce their full lineup, but this is what we know so far:

  • Toro Rosso will keep Sebastien Buemi, one of the more successful rookies of 2009.
  • Robert Kubica is hoping Renault can give him a car equal to his talents.
  • Bruno Senna, the kid competing with Michael Schumacher for the most famous name on the grid, will drive for Campos.
  • USF1 are yet to announce any drivers and while they have a preference for American talent, could we see Nick Heidfeld heading States-side? There are rumours the team may not even make the first race let alone pre-season testing…

2009 was another fantastic season and while the changes in regulations for 2010 are not as dramatic it is still shaping up to be a great year of racing.

Stay tuned!

Image: Lotus F1

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Jenson Button signs for McLaren

November 18th, 2009 No comments

Jenson Button, Singapore, 2009Jenson Button has officially signed a multi-year deal to race at McLaren from 2010.

The pairing of Button and Hamilton will create a kind of British Dream Team that will see for the first time two British World Champions driving together since Graham Hill and Jim Clark at Lotus in 1968.

It seems that Brawn just couldn’t come up with the extra cash Button felt he was worth as a World Champion although the press release puts a slightly different spin on things. Button said:

It’s always a difficult decision to leave a team when you’ve been there for so long. But life is all about challenges – and, most important of all, it’s about challenging yourself. So, although I won the World Championship with Brawn GP last year, and I’ll never forget that, I was always adamant that I wanted to continue to set myself fresh challenges.

I don’t think it is just about money anyway. Although Brawn started 2009 miles ahead of any other team this was mostly down to a big head start in development and the fact that everyone was starting from a clean slate.

McLaren improved more than any other team this year and Button rightly feels they will have one of the most competitive cars on the track in 2010. And while McLaren might not have been around for as long as Ferrari, they are one of the most succesful teams in Formula One with their own distinguished history. After visiting the McLaren headquarters Button said:

McLaren is one of the greats of world sport, and its achievements and list of past champions read like a Who’s Who of Formula 1 – Emerson Fittipaldi, James Hunt, Niki Lauda, Alain Prost, Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen and of course my new team-mate Lewis Hamilton. I’ve followed the McLaren team ever since I was a small boy, and it feels unbelievable to finally be a part of it.

When I visited the McLaren Technology Centre earlier this month, it wasn’t simply the technical resources and the incredible standards of excellence that impressed me. No, I was equally struck by the ambition, the motivation and the winning spirit that flow through everybody there. And then there’s the team’s epic history: put it this way, the trophy cabinets seem to stretch for miles.

Whether Button will integrate with the team more successfully than the 2006 World Champion did remains to be seen. Team boss Martin Whitmarsh said:

It has always been our policy to employ the two very best possible drivers – and, in Jenson and Lewis, we feel we not only have the fastest pairing on the 2010 grid, but also the two most complete, professional and dedicated drivers in Formula 1.

Moreover, I’m confident that we’ll be able to successfully balance and harness Jenson’s and Lewis’s complementary skill-sets.

This also means Hekki Kovalainen is now out of a job which is a shame. Heikki can be very quick and deserves to get a seat at another team. Could we see him partnering Kubica at Renault?

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Toyota considering Kobayashi for 2010

October 23rd, 2009 No comments

Kamui Kobayashi, Catalunya, 2008Toyota boss John Howett is considering offering Kamui Kobayashi a race seat next year.

The 23-year-old filled in for the injured Timo Glock in Brazil last weekend and managed to finish a respectable 10th.

Not only that, he wasn’t afraid to go wheel to wheel against World Champion Jenson Button (who described him as “absolutely crazy.”)

There is a lot of uncertainty in the driver market at the moment and Toyota are waiting until a board meeting on 15 November to make the final decision on whether to keep racing in F1.

Apparently Jarno Trulli has promised Toyota chairman Tadashi Yamashina that he would not make any decisions on 2010 until after that meeting but I get the impression Jarno’s seat at Toyota is not as secure as he would like. Howett said of Trulli’s position:

We don’t exclude the possibility, but there need to be one or two issues that we get straight.

I’m a bit surprised at the cool reception Howett gave Kobayashi after Brazil, saying he was “a little bit off the pace,” but compared to the efforts of Grosjean and Alguersuari I think he did a great job in his first Grand Prix.

Personally, I would like to see Kobayashi given a drive next year. I was always a fan of Takuma Sato and I can see shades of Takuma’s Banzai spirit in Kamui.

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Alonso confirmed at Ferrari (finally)

September 30th, 2009 No comments

Alonso puzzleFormula One has never been able to keep a secret and today the latest worst kept secret was finally confirmed: Fernando Alonso will drive for Ferrari.

Alonso’s contract is for three seasons starting 2010, partnering Fellipe Massa with Giancarlo Fisichella as reserve driver.

There has long been speculation that Kimi Raikkonen would make way for Alonso next year (a year before his contract was up) but Felipe Massa’s accident and then the Renault race fixing investigation held up the announcement which was expected at Monza.

Like one of those sliding puzzles, Alonso’s move to Ferrari now frees up a space at Renault and the game of musical chairs can begin.  Where will everyone be sitting when the music stops and who will be left standing?

McLaren say nothing has been decided yet but there are rumours that Kimi may return to the Silver Arrows in place of fellow Finn Kovalainen (and that Spanish bank Santander will pay Kimi’s 2010 Ferrari salary.)

Robert Kubica has been tipped to take over Alonso’s seat at Renault while Nico Rosberg could switch places with Rubens Barrichello at Brawn.

While Adrian Sutil will probably stay at Force India, Tonio Liuzzi may be under pressure from Nick Heidfeld to keep his seat there.

The good news for those drivers worried about losing their seats is that there will (hopefully) be at least three new teams on the grid next year.  None of them have announced their driver lineup yet but McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa  has been linked with Campos while Manor or Lotus could provide a way back in to F1 for BBC commentator Anthony Davidson.  I actually think Davidson is a really good commentator but I also think his Formula One career was prematurely interrupted just as it seemed to be getting off the ground.

Somewhat surprisingly we may even see Nelson Piquet Jr return in 2010.  Manor team boss, John Booth, could offer the Brazilian a drive in 2010.  He was quoted by the Telegraph as saying (without a hint of irony):

I’ve not spoken to him at the moment, but he’s a smashing little driver. I’ve no personal problems with him, but it is unclear what his current position is with regards sponsorship

Ferrari press release

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Is Kimi going back to McLaren?

September 20th, 2009 1 comment

Kimi Raikkonen, Australia, 2005According to an article in the Mirror, Kimi Raikkonen has already signed an agreement to race for McLaren next year — as long as Ferrari will pay him his £30m salary for 2010.

It seems certain that Fernando Alonso will drive for Ferrari in 2010 which means the Scuderia will have way more drivers than they need; 5 if you include Michael Schumacher and Giancarlo Fisichella (7 if you also include Badoer and Gene.)  The trouble for Ferrari is that Raikkonen still has another year left of his contract.

There are always lots of rumours this time of year and I wouldn’t necessarily place too much confidence in the Mirror, especially as the article says:

Paddock sources say the Finn, 29, has signed an outline agreement to return to the car he won the world title with in 2007.

Raikkonen did indeed win the Championship in 2007 but I seem to remember him driving a Red Car that year…

This tweet from McLaren’s FifthDriver seems to suggest no decision has been made so as usual we will just have to wait for official confirmation.

As much as I like Heikki and think he deserves to keep his seat for 2010 I can’t deny I would love to see Kimi back in one of the Silver Arrows.  He was criticised earlier in the year for an apparent lack of interest in F1, but since then he  has scored 5 podiums including a win in Belgium.  That doesn’t seem like someone suffering from a lack of commitment.

I also think the team of Kimi and Lewis would work.  Raikkonen clearly doesn’t care who his team mate is, he just gets in the car and drives fast. Some think that Hamilton needs to be number one but I’m not so sure.

Both Hamilton and Raikkonen are awesome talents.  They have each won a world Championship and I would love to see them pushing each other all the way through 2010.

Image: McLaren

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