F101 ~ Laura Marieee

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Welcome to my new weekend op ed, F101. If you’ve read Marbles this week, you’ll know that this is F1B’s beginners guide to F1, where each week during the off-season I’ll be giving you all the information you need to know about Formula One, and being a fan of it as well. There’s plenty to know about the sport, and over the coming weeks I’ll be explaining it so that when the lights go out on the 2010 season, you’ll be a know-it-all. This week I’ll start off with something simple, and talk about some of the sport’s drivers, to give you an idea who to look out for in 2010. The grid is a mixed bag of individuals- world champions, veterans, rookies and then others who hardly get mentioned. The best place to start is with the drivers who have been confirmed for 2010. So welcome to F101…

F101

In 2009 the two top teams, Ferrari and McLaren were continuously outpaced by Red Bull – who had previously been regulars in the mid field – and Brawn – who only just made the grid, three weeks before the season started. For 2010, both Ferrari and McLaren, who were caught up in a championship battle until the bitter end of 2008 – hence their lack of pace in 2009 – have upped their game, and are determined to be on top again. Brawn, led by technical genius Ross Brawn, was bought out by Mercedes a few weeks ago, and now owning 75% of the team, the Silver Arrows will return the Mercedes name to the F1 grid in 2010. As for their share in McLaren, that is no longer, and the Woking-based team has bought back Mercedes’ share.

As for Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, who scored many successful victories and podiums between them for Brawn in 2009, they will go their separate ways from the team, the former, who clinched the drivers’ title with a race left to go in October, will join 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton at McLaren for next season, while the latter, who narrowly missed out on second in this season’s championship, will line up as the veteran at Williams in 2010, alongside rookie Nico Hulkenberg.

So who are these guys, you F1 beginners must be thinking…? Well Jenson Button is the current world champion, who after a decade in the sport, managed an impressive six wins out of seven in the opening half of 2009, and he will take the No. 1 with him to McLaren for next season. Alongside him, in the No. 2 car will be last year’s champion Hamilton, and what a pairing that is likely to be. The media and bloggers worldwide have been sceptical of this pairing, as while Button has a smooth driving style that’s worthy of maintaining his title, Hamilton has the conviction in him to push 110% to beat everyone else, including his teammate. For Button to succeed as Hamilton’s teammate however, he needs to be on the pace from the beginning of winter testing. And if he is on the pace, unlike Hamilton’s teammate of the last two years, Heikki Kovalainen, then that’s one reason to watch next season, as there is nothing better than watching a straightforward battle between two teammates for the championship. Whatever happens – whether Button succeeds or not as Hamilton’s teammate – both are worth looking out for in 2010.

As far as Button fitting in at McLaren is concerned, there is also the fact that McLaren has been known as “Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren team” since his first season in 2007 when he made an impressive start to his F1 career, and teammate Fernando Alonso felt like he was being quickly replaced as the No. 1 driver. Hamilton finished second in the championship that year behind Kimi Raikkonen, finishing a point ahead of Alonso – it’s no wonder he was upset.

But the main point from the 2007 season was how exciting it was to watch the battle of the teammates unfold, and while Alonso won’t be in the same team as Hamilton next season, he’ll be fighting him for a chance to take his third title in the other top team- Ferrari.

Alonso was signed at Ferrari a year earlier than originally planned, back at the end of the summer, replacing 2007 world champion Raikkonen, who after demanding a high salary for 2010, eventually decided to “take a year out” from F1 and go rallying instead. Alonso though has been destined for a drive at Ferrari since he left McLaren at the end of 2007 to head back to Renault where he won his two world championships in 2005 and 2006. He had hoped to secure his third title, his first for McLaren, in 2007, but it wasn’t to be when Hamilton did better than he, or even anyone, anticipated. After a tempestuous year he returned to Renault, and after two unsuccessful years he is set to join Ferrari for next season. In a fast car again, Alonso will be one to watch out for, as after his year at McLaren, he will more than likely be hoping to out-do Hamilton this time around. Alonso will team up with Felipe Massa, who you may or may not know, suffered a severe blow to the head in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix this season, and after being touch-and-go for a while, spent the remainder of the season recuperating.

Next season he’ll be back in a faster Ferrari seeking what so nearly was his at the end of 2008 when he crossed the finish line in Brazil as world champion, only for Hamilton to gain fifth and the title in the penultimate corner further back down the road. Massa, like Hamilton, has the conviction in him to win, and while Alonso may be a former world champion driving a Ferrari, you can be sure Massa will be making sure he’s the man to beat within the team when he returns next year.

As for the rest of the field, they are a bit of a mixture. There are the veterans – Rubens Barrichello is the eldest driver on the grid, and Mark Webber has been in the sport for some years now as well. Then there’s the former F1 driver, Jacques Villeneuve, who last appeared in the sport a few years ago, who is reported to be hoping for a seat on the grid again next year with returning team Lotus. Among the other new teams, the drivers to look out for include Timo Glock, who missed the last three races of the 2009 season due to an injury sustained in a qualifying accident in Japan, at Manor, and Ayrton Senna’s nephew Bruno, at Campos.

Of the other current drivers, Sebastian Vettel, who throughout the 2009 season was dubbed the new Schumacher, will remain at Red Bull fighting to win his first championship after coming runner-up to Button this year. Vettel currently holds the record for youngest driver to have won a Grand Prix, and it’s only a matter of time before he goes one better in the fight for the title, and wins it. Nico Rosberg is another driver who, despite not having won any races so far in his career, has the talent and the determination to win, and as Mercedes first confirmed driver, and Ross Brawn for a team principal, he may be another driver to look out for in Bahrain when the season gets underway next March. Similarly, Robert Kubica, who was at one point during 2008 in the running for the title, will be hoping Renault stay put in F1 and once again provide a championship winning car for him to show that 2008 wasn’t just a one-off, after a difficult season this year at the recently departed BMW Sauber team.

As for the other seats, many are still yet to be announced, with the only other confirmations I so far haven’t mentioned being Mark Webber alongside Vettel at Red Bull, and Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi at Force India. But as far as an introduction to the drivers is concerned, these are the basics, as for who you support in 2010, only you can decide… That’s it for F101 this week, but I’ll be back again next Saturday with more F1 for beginners…

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