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2009 FIA Formula 1 Season – Looking Ahead

Winter testing for 2008 is now finished. As we look ahead to the 2009 season, it dawns on me that it isn’t that far off. We’re talking March, folks! By then, the new sporting regulations will be fully adopted and implemented. The race cars that we’ve been used to seeing will be gone forever. Regardless, I do look forward to the return of slick tires and tall, narrow rear wing elements… a return of sorts to the halcyon days of Senna vs. Prost.

So what do I predict will happen in 2009? Considering that the cars will be completely new and KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System) will kick in, it’s a crapshoot at this point. With that being said, you cannot ignore the performance of the past few years as we take a peek into the future…

Scuderia Ferrari F1 – Jean Todt departure ended the Schumacher era and it showed. Although Stefano Domenicali did an acceptable job, the Scuderia just seemed out of it. Pit stop mistakes and engine failures marred what was otherwise an excellent season for the Prancing Horse.

As for the drivers, you couldn’t help but feel an incredible amount of sympathy for Felipe Massa. HE was the best driver of 2008 and would have easily taken home the driver’s title if the car wouldn’t have let him down so often. Massa will come back with more confidence than he’s ever had before and any doubts about his ability and class no longer exist. He is my pick to take the whole thing next year.

And where was Kimi in 2008? The regining world champion seemed content with just driving a race, rather than winning it. And even though he repeatedly stated that he would fight for the championship, his actions spoke otherwise. Expect Kimi to be competitive, but I see him retirning after the 2009 season.

McLaren Mercedes F1 – Whether you like Ron Dennis or not, McLaren runs a tight ship. And save for the Peugeot- and Ford-powered days in the early 90s (and yes, that overweight driver named Michael Andretti), McLaren’s always competitive. And will be again for 2009.

Although I can’t say I like Lewis Hamilton very much, he is indeed FAST. And he didn’t repeat the stupid rookie mistakes he made in 2007. But really, would Hamilton still be champion if it wasn’t for Massa’s crappy luck? I think not. Hamilton will win races in 2009, but do not expect him to retain his championship.

As for Heikki… the poor Finn is so inconsistent and riddled with bad luck, I can’t see him doing any better in 2009. Ron Dennis may say there are no team orders at McLaren, but expect the diminutive Finn to continue playing a supporting role to Hamilton.

Renault F1 – Let’s face it. Flav and the Renault crew produced some pretty average cars over the last 2 years. But we did see some glimmer of hope with the return of Fernando Alonso. Fred should win some races next year, just as he pulled off a couple at Singapore and Japan, but whether he can challenge for the championship is a different story altogether. I pick Renault and Fred as the dark horse for next year.

As for Nelsinho, it was an up-and-down 2008. It’s highly doubtful that he’s going to do any better against Fred in 2009. Hell, Fred kicked the shit out of him last year and I am 100% sure that Junior is going to perform any better in the new season.

BMW Sauber F1 – Dr. Theissen and team have really come to the forefront over the last two years and it has shown. They accomplished their goal of a race win in 2008, with Robert Kubica taking home the trophy at Canada (naysayers will say it’s due to Hamilton’s stupidity in the pit lane). Speaking of the Pole, he’s been overly outspoken about differences in direction between the team and himself. Granted, we need to see more drivers with personality than robots like Bob, but he seems to lack some of the tact that we expect from professional athletes. Cheer up, Bob. You have a nice contract with a team in the upper echelons of Formula 1. Plenty of people would kill to be in your spot.

With that being said, “Quick” Nick Heidfeld did an okay job in the 2008 season. Is it just me or is he another Fisichella who needs a kick in the ass now and then to go faster?

I predict BMW Sauber F1 will win 2 races in 2009.

Red Bull Renault F1 – Let’s face it. Red Bull’s entry into F1 is a bit of a joke. It’s a PR / marketing stunt. There just doesn’t seem to be enough drive / fire under the butt to make things progress at a faster rate. With old man Coulthard leaving the paddock for a spot on BBC’s F1 coverage, things will hopefully change. Sebastian Vettel should bring some much needed youth and energy into this team. Mark Webber‘s always a consumate gentleman and I really do wish him best for the new season.

Scuderia Toro Rosso – With Gerhard Berger selling his 50% stake in the team back to Dietrich Mateschitz, the owner of the Red Bull Renault F1 team and the Red Bull empire, things seem to be up in the air. The driver line up is still in question, with alum Sebastien Bourdais, Sebastian Buemi and Takuma Sato vying for a seat. If the former Honda Racing F1 squad does not find a buyer, it is quite feasible that Jenson Button could join the fray.

STR’s 2008 car really came alive in the 2nd half of the season, bringing together the maiden win for the squad and for Sebastian Vettel, who is now at the senior Red Bull team. Whether the team can maintain that form in 2009 is a big question mark. But with Ferrari power still slated for the junior Red Bull squad and Adrian Newey’s skills at play, don’t count out STR for top-8 performances in 2009.

Panasonic Toyota F1 – With both Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli returning for 2009, consistency will be the name of the game in 2009. There were a few bright spots for the Japanese squad in 2008, as well as some dark moments. The trouble with the Cologne-based team is their lack of consistency – one race they qualify well, next race they don’t. With the global automotive market taking quite a hit as of late, and Toyota’s Japanese compatriot Honda pulling out of F1 altogether, I feel 2009 will be a make it or break it year for Toyota. Glock or Trulli must pull of at least a victory or two for Toyota’s big wigs to even consider staying in the game beyond next year.

Williams Toyota F1 – Frank Williams has been in the game a long time and has a few trophies to justify his long standing position in the pit lane. In the past couple of decades, names like Mansell, Villeneuve and Hill have brought him the driver’s championship. But with BMW’s withdrawl a few years ago and a lack of consistency, especially with the Cosworth powerplant, Williams seems to be in decline. Sure, he has Nico Rosberg, a talented driver in his own right, and Kazuki Nakajima, the Japanese driver who probably had quite a bit to do with securing the Toyota engine deal, but being a privateer in F1 is tough nowadays. Unless you are a billionaire, that is.

I continually feel like Rosberg is a bit like Button – if there was a better car underneath them, they could be so much better.

Force India F1 – With a McLaren-Mercedes technical package secured, Vijay Mallya is playing musical drivers’ seats with Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella. And rumors abound that Pedro de la Rosa, long time McLaren test driver, is going to get a seat at the Indian squad. But I don’t get the intellect behind that move unless it’s a pure ass-kissing gesture on the part of Mallya – replace an aging Italian who has at least lots of race time and a few wins with an aging Spaniard with little race time and no wins? You tell me how this translates into a smart move?

Honda Racing F1 (post-mortem) – There are rumors flying everywhere about who could potentially take over the Brackley-based squad. David Richards, of Prodrive fame (and former frontman for the BAR F1 squad, which was Honda Racing F1’s predecessor), is talking to some Arab financial concerns about buying the team. You gotta give it to the crude-rich Arabs for saving F1 in more ways than one.

And Carlos Slim, owner of the Mexican Telmex empire (and #2 on the list of the world’s richest people), has supposedly visited the Brackley facility. It wouldn’t be too far fetched for Senor Slim  to get involved, considering his long time involvement in the Rolex Daytona series in the States. Maybe he’ll convince Bernie to bring F1 back to the Hermanos Rodriguez track in Mexico. Well, probably not.

So there are my predictions for the 2009 F1 season. I can’t wait for March.

December 22, 2008 - Posted by | Features & Opinions, Formula 1, General, Motorsports, Talkin Trash | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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