I personally have been counting down the days till the start of the 2010 F1 season, and from the amount of people on Twitter, websites and other Formula 1 blogs, I’d say I’m not alone. The anticipation and almost lack of patience to get to the Bahrain Grand Prix seems to have Grand Prix Fever at an all time fever this year, but why is that? I don’t think it’s one thing, but many factors are contributing to people’s desire to see the season start.
The Brawn Dominance of 2009
Last year Brawn, and in fact Jenson Button himself, won 6 out of the first 7 Grands Prix.The extra months of development put in by Honda before the buyout gave them an insurmountable advantage and though Red Bull gave them a few tense moments towards the end, the season was almost over before the halfway point. As such fans never got much of a competition last year and after the nail biting climax of both the 2007 and 2008 seasons, they are desperate for a Formula 1 season with some exciting rivalries and championship battles.
The Return of Michael Schumacher
Love him or hate him there is no other driver in the history of Formula 1 who has made such an impact as Michael Schumacher. At 41 years old and after 3 years away from the sport as an active driver, he’s back. Just what effect will that have on the other drivers and the season as a whole? Speaking for myself, I am relatively new to Formula 1, at least as fan at the level where I watch everything, every week. That means I’ve never watched every race in a season where Schumacher has dominated, or at least been a factor in determining who would be champion. To have him on track at the same time as drivers like Lewis Hamilton, Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel is a mouth watering prospect, and has brought even more attention to an already fascinating 2010 season.
McLaren’s Poor 2009 Season
While the second half of the 2009 season was one of improvement and success, the first half was so bad that McLaren failed, at least by their standards. As a McLaren fan it was very disappointing not to be in the championship race, neither for the drivers or constrictor. Testing seems to have gone well for McLaren so I’m anticipating starting the 2010 season with a chance of victory from the very first race, and that alone is enough for any fan of McLaren to want to get the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend started as soon as possible. The sooner we see success in 2010, the sooner we can forget the mediocrity of 2009.
Most Competitive Season in Recent History
McLaren and Ferrari seem to have pulled themselves back from the doldrums of 2009, we have no reason to believe Red Bull have dropped performance from being the fastest car on the grid last year and Mercedes have taken over the championship winning car of last year and have had an off-season of development with a high level of funding. Add Williams and BMW Sauber Ferrari (wow, that’ll take some getting used to) into the mix and it’s looking like we are in for a season with more possible race winners than there has been for a long time. The first few races may tell a different story but on paper it would appear we are in for a very exciting season, and one which will see the championship race go right to the very end with no clear favourites right now.
New Teams and Drivers
Lotus, HRT and Virgin are brand new to 2010, while Sauber and Mercedes have been taken over fro the teams they were on 2009. Add in new names to Formula 1 like Bruno Senna, Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg plus the likes of Pedro de la Rosa, Lucas di Grassi, Vitantonio Liuzzi & Kamui Kobayashi and the 2010 season has a grid that looks vastly different to 2009, both in quantity of cars n the grid and the number of new or returning names behind the wheel. While a lot of these drivers may not be vying for the lead themselves, what they do on track will inevitably affect those that are gunning for big points – remember Spa last year?
There have been a multitude of rule changes for the upcoming season but the three that make the most difference, at least from my perspective, are:
- No refuelling during the race – this means that the cars have to fuel up at the start of the race with a full tank, enough to last them the whole race. This has a massive effect on qualifying where we used to see cars fuel light for pole position but have to come into the pits early in the race for more fuel. Conversely, some cars would fuel a bit heavier hoping the extra laps they stayed out would be enough to keep them in the lead after their later pit stop.
- Tyres at end of qualifying just be used for the start of the race which gives way to one of two strategies; 1) Choose soft tyres in order to get near the start of the grid, but suffer greater wear with a heavy fuel load at the start of the race, or 2) choose the harder tyre and maybe not qualify as well, but have less wear on the tyres from the race start and thus go longer and better on the first set of tyres.
- New Points System – this is the big one, and has been put in place to encourage drivers to go for the win every time rather being satisfied with a 2nd place finish. Where 1st, 2nd and 3rd used to earn the drivers 10, 8 and 6 points respectively – those positions now get a driver 25, 18 and 15 points. This means that someone who has fallen behind in the points after a few races could see some successful car upgrades catapult him back up to the top of the leader board with a couple of wins. The points also go back to 10th place, that’s 2 more points winning places than the 2009 season.
All these factors are going to change qualifying, race strategies and driver motivation – at least that’s the theory!
What started off as a media fuelled fantasy, soon became reality when 2009 champion Jenson Button joined 2008 champion Lewis Hamilton to form the British Dream Team at McLaren. Over at Ferrari, Fernando Alonso made his much anticipated move and joins Felipe Massa, who hasn’t raced since Hungary where he had the horrific accident. At Mercedes there is the returning Michael Schumacher and the ever promising Nico Rosberg, all under the watchful eye of Ross Brawn. At Red Bull we have Sebastian Vettel and Mark Weber, who on paper may not have the allure of these other 3 teams but let us not forget that this is a team that gave Brawn a run for their money in the championships last year. Had Brawn not had that developmental head start last year we’d probably be starting 2010 with Red Bull driving the 1 and 2 cars. It’s a fascinating prospect, not only seeing how these teams compete against each other but to see how and even if the drivers can co-exist.
The Rise of Social Networking / Blogs
In the past 12 months Twitter has exploded and if you are ever tweeting during a F1 race you’ll see online social interactivity taken to new levels. There have also been a huge rise in the number of websites and blogs dedicated to the great sport of Formula 1. It could well be that it just appears that there is more anticipation for the upcoming season because more people are visibly talking about it, though I’m pretty sure the anticipation is real, it is bigger than ever before and it’s because of the points discussed previously. It is great that the F1 community is able to grow on a global scale and bring fans together thanks to the internet.
So, the question was: Is 2010 the most eagerly anticipated Formula 1 season ever? The answer is yes, and this time next week the first practice session will be under way on Bahrain. I’m excited about the upcoming season like never before, are you?