Well were almost there!! Next weekend marks the start of one of the most eagerly anticipated Formula 1 seasons ever. Michael Schumacher has returned, Hamilton against Button at McLaren, Alonso in a Ferrari, Massa back after his accident and intent on proving a point to Alonso, this season just has so many exciting prospects!!!
Let’s start with Schumacher and Mercedes. The seven time world champion is coming in the new season with a car that doesn't seem to be as dominant as it was at the start of last year. The Mercedes is, at the moment, about fourth fastest behind Ferrari, McLaren and Red Bull but if any man can change things around it's Schumacher. It may not be a probable winner at the moment but as the season goes on expect to see that team make vast improvements. They've got a new aero update coming for Bahrain and who knows maybe I will have to eat my words, maybe they will challenge for the win this weekend. Their new diffuser has certainly caught the attention of a lot of people before it has even been seen with people expecting controversy over it, we may see a repeat of the controversy surrounding the legality of the double diffusers last year. McLaren, Ferrari and Red Bull are the three other top teams and if the testing times are anything to go by they all have the potential to win. Hamilton and Button (which I covered in an earlier blog), two latest world champions, are going to push each other to the limit. The result: either some fantastic performances or an embarrassing collision between them. At Ferrari you have Fernando Alonso who has endured a few rough seasons . He didn't enjoy his time at Mclaren and had two poor seasons with Renault so this is a man who is determined to get his career back on track and appears to go into the season as the title favourite for the moment. Then there is Felipe Massa. The Brazilian who returns to the cockpit after his horror crash in Hungary last year will have a point to prove. He's grown up and matured as a driver since debuting for Ferrari in 2006 and certainly out performed Raikkonen in 2008 and up until his accident last year. He knows how Alonso reacted when Hamilton outperformed him in 2007 and I'm sure he will want to give the Spaniard the same surprise, and he's well capable of it. Red Bull finished runner up to Brawn last year so they go into the new season hungry for success. It was obvious last year that Vettel will accept nothing other than victory so expect to see him more determined than ever in Bahrain. Webber notched up two race wins last year and had a good season by his standards but this season he’s up against a lot of tough competition and out of the eight drivers in the top teams he's probably in the bottom two.
Moving down the order we have Williams, Force India, Sauber, Renault and Torro Rosso. Sauber have impressed me the most in pre-season testing, they seemed to be up at the top end of the time sheets and seem to have a good package. This could be a good opportunity for Pedro De la Rosa who had some good performances with the Mclaren team when he substituted for Montoya a few years ago. Kamui Kobayashi impressed me a lot in the two races he competed in last year, he put up a good fight against Button in Brazil and overtook him in Abu Dhabi, admittedly it does go a bit down hill when you mention that he ran Nakajima off the road but you live and learn! He has the opportunity to really shine this year. He has a car that looks capable of scoring good solid points and maybe steal a podium or two. Force India is a team that I'm definitely excited about. They made amazing improvements last year and if they have carried that pace over to this year they can definitely be an example for the new teams to follow. They have the same driver line up as the end of last year so the drivers have the advantage of being in a familiar set up, a luxury a lot of drivers don't have this season as we have had a lot of moves. Williams have signed up Barrichello for this season and with that they have signed a driver with a lot of experience. They have mixed that with the fresh youth of Nico Hulkenberg, who won the GP2 title last year. A nice mix which could deliver a lot of points. Let’s hope they can improve on their recent record. As for Renault they go into a very important season for them. The team isn't even the full works Renault team any more as Genii Capital has taken them over. The have recruited Vitaly Petrov as (from where I'm standing) nothing more than a pay driver. Robert Kubica seems to be there light at the end of the tunnel. The 2008 Canadian Grand Prix winner has the talent and is now the clear lead driver in a team; hopefully he can deliver the results. Torro Rosso come in to the new season as a full constructor for the first time. I'm really interested to see how the car will perform this season. Like Force India they also have retained their driver line up so fingers crossed they can do the business.
Finally we come to the new teams, and lets face it, it doesn't look like there is going to be a repeat of Brawn GP's story. Virgin and Lotus were well off the pace in pre-season testing and HRT's car hasn't even turned a wheel!!! It seems in Bahrain these cars are just going to make up the numbers but reliability will be their biggest strength particularly at the first race. If they can keep their cars in the race while others around them fail them they could score points. I am looking forward to seeing Bruno Senna. Hopefully the fact that he hasn't tested the new car won't hinder him too much. He claims the car is faster than Virgin and Lotus but even if that’s true no testing means that this weekend will probably be plagued by teething problems.
Whatever happens it’s a season that I'm really looking forward to and the long winter break is nearly over. So many questions will soon be answered so make sure to tune in at the weekend!! Only six days to go!!!!!!!