The Formula One merry-go-round swings into action at last!

Posted: November 18, 2009 in Sport
Tags: , , , , , ,

Finally, we started receiving news of driver repositioning in F1, after weeks, months even, of speculation and silence across the teams. We now have a little bit more idea of what will happen next season, with a few confirmations and solid rumours replacing all the uncertainty. What is certain is that Kimi Raikkonen will not be in F1 next season, instead preferring to look at the opportunities in WRC, and as a Finn that is a style well known to him.

Raikkonen was effectively bought out of his contract by Ferrari, paying him 20m Euros to terminate, and he had eyes on only one team for 2010…McLaren. Everyone thought that he would sign for them, so when rumours started that Jenson Button was being lined up for the seat it took quite a few people by surprise. Kimi has raced in WRC before, having taken part in a stage last season. He started well, posting up pretty quick times, before a crash ended his hopes of a good finish. The current rumour around Kimi is that he will race in WRC in 2010, then move to Red Bull for 2011 when Mark Webber’s contract expires. I can’t see this, Red Bull are a good team but I can’t see them being the title-challenging team Kimi wants, and he may not be happy being underdog to Vettel.

Jenson Button was confirmed just today as having signed for McLaren for 2010, and I think this is a strange, and ultimately wrong, move. McLaren are geared towards Hamilton, and Button’s driving style will not suit the development of the new MP4 car, as he prefers understeer and Hamilton likes oversteer. Both techniques require significantly different setups and even as world champion Button will not be able to force his ideas and requirements through. Button was a lucky world champion in that he didn’t have a great car all season, but he had the fortune of having  a car that was pretty much ready at the start of the season compared to everyone else who needed 6 or 7 races to get it right. Once the others caught up, the Brawn GP car became what it would normally be, a mid-pack car. This season will be very tough for Button, and it will be interesting to see how he copes with the pressure of being champion and the expectation that will bring. It will also be interesting to see what McLaren do to keep both drivers happy, and whether they can satisfy both’s requirements in terms of setup for racing.

Timo Glock has signed as lead driver for the Manor team with another driver under discussion for the second seat at one of the four new F1 teams on the grid this year. Lotus also have a driver signed but are not giving away who it is yet, with speculation pointing to Jarno Trulli who is without a drive after Toyota’s exit from the sport. And Campos Meta have signed Bruno Senna as their first driver. US F1 have yet to announce any driver signings amidst rumours that they may not make it to the first grid of next season. However, they have announced a deal to have Cosworth power in their cars, and are looking to sign American drivers to fit with the US branding of the team. Danica Patrick was rumoured to have tested but will probably not sign as she is not believed to be quick enough for F1.

Robert Kubica has signed for Renault for 2010 but the team’s future is still undecided after a meeting was held to discuss the viability of continuing in Formula 1. Nico Rosberg has signed for Brawn GP, which has now been rebranded Mercedes GP after a takeover by the German car maker. This deal was made possible by a fantastic piece of business by McLaren, whereby they allowed Mercedes to sell their stake in Mclaren in return for free engine provision and support until at least 2015. This is very good business, and as Ron Dennis described it, a “win-win scenario for McLaren”. The Mercedes engine is widely accepted to be the best and most powerful on the grid, with only the Ferrari and Renault engines getting anywhere close. It is also unbelievably reliable, as the Brawn car of 2009 showed with not a single failure due to engine troubles (indeed they only failed to finish twice, once through a gearbox issue and once through a multi-car accident).

So this is how it looks so far in terms of seats for 2010:

McLaren:

Jenson Button, Lewis Hamilton

Ferrari:

Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa

Red Bull Racing:

Sebastian Vettel, Mark Webber

Renault:

Robert Kubica

Scuderia Toro Rosso:

Sebastian Buemi, Jaime Alguersuari

Williams:

Rubens Barrichello, Nico Hulkenberg

Force India:

No confirmations

Mercedes GP:

Nico Rosberg

Campos Meta:

Bruno Senna

Us F1:

No Confirmations

Manor GP:

Timo Glock

Lotus:

No Confirmations

With the withdrawal of Toyota from F1, there is a free space on the grid for another new team, should the registration be allowed. QADBAK, a Saudi investment group, have purchased BMW who also pulled out of F1 this year, and may get a chance to enter a team for the 2010 season with the permission of the other teams. This has yet to be finalised, and may not happen at all.

All in all, 2010 looks like it will be an exciting season, although this year, let’s hope it’s exciting for the right reasons. I don’t want another season of scandal and lying to hit the sport, as every time it does it causes more and more damage to reputations, and I’d quite like F1 to stick around…what else would I do with my Sundays?

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