Thursday, 25 March 2010

Six Degrees of Sir Jack Brabham

As regular readers will probably know, I am particularly given to obsessiveness - except when it comes to the updating of blogs, of course. This week I have reacquainted myself with the venerable game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. It is a fine and noble pursuit, but I'm not terribly good at it, not least, it seems, because I haven't seen Flatliners. I can usually get there, but in a rather-too-roundabout way to be elegant. If only there were a version of the Six Degrees of Separation oeuvre which concerned something I knew more about!

So, I got to thinking, if there were to be a Formula 1 version, who would be our Kevin Bacon. My working hypothesis - and this post is very much an exercise in thinking out loud, if I'm honest - is that it is Jack Brabham. As well as three world titles and a career which spanned races in three decades, Sir Jack also founded a very successful eponymous team. If that wasn't enough, two of his sons - Gary and David - went on to compete in Formula 1 themselves, although Gary never qualified for a Grand Prix.

Here are the rules I set myself. Connections may be via teammates, old team colleagues, contractual ties or blood relations. My first challenge was to see if I could link each of the 24 drivers in 2010-vintage Formula 1 back to Sir Jack Brabham in six moves or fewer. As you can see, it has proved successful. Next, I'll be looking to do the remaining 26 Formula 1 world champions, although I expect Jack Brabham to prove fairly easy in that regard.

Until I find an obvious flaw in the system, I fully expect Six Degrees of Jack Brabham to be the hottest game of the summer. Or not.

JENSON BUTTON was teammate of Rubens Barrichello, who was teammate of Martin Brundle, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

LEWIS HAMILTON drove for McLaren under Ron Dennis, who was a mechanic for Sir Jack Brabham.

MICHAEL SCHUMACHER was teammate of Nelson Piquet, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

NICO ROSBERG was teammate of Kazuki Nakajima, son of Satoru Nakajima, teammate of Stefano Modena, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

SEBASTIAN VETTEL drove for BMW, who supplied engines to Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

MARK WEBBER was teammate of David Coulthard, who was teammate of Damon Hill, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

FERNANDO ALONSO was teammate of Giancarlo Fisichella, who was teammate of Jenson Button, who was teammate of Rubens Barrichello, who was teammate of Martin Brundle, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

FELIPE MASSA was teammate of Michael Schumacher, who was teammate of Riccardo Patrese, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

ROBERT KUBICA drove for BMW, who supplied engines to Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

VITALY PETROV was teammate of Robert Kubica, who drove for BMW, who supplied engines to Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

RUBENS BARRICHELLO was teammate of Martin Brundle, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

NICO HULKENBERG was teammate of Rubens Barrichello, was teammate of Martin Brundle, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

ADRIAN SUTIL was teammate of Giancarlo Fisichella, who was teammate of Jenson Button, who was teammate of Rubens Barrichello, who was teammate of Martin Brundle, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

VITANTONIO LIUZZI was teammate of David Coulthard, who was teammate of Damon Hill, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

SEBASTIEN BUEMI was teammate of Sebastien Bourdais, who was teammate of Sebastian Vettel, who drove for BMW, who supplied engines to Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

JAIME ALGUERSUARI was teammate of Sebastien Buemi, who was teammate of Sebastien Bourdais, who was teammate of Sebastian Vettel, who drove for BMW, who supplied engines to Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

JARNO TRULLI was teammate of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who was teammate of Damon Hill, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

HEIKKI KOVALAINEN drove for McLaren under team boss Ron Dennis, who was a mechanic for Sir Jack Brabham.

PEDRO DE LA ROSA was teammate of Kimi Raikkonen, who was teammate of David Coulthard, who was teammate of Damon Hill, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

KAMUI KOBAYASHI was teammate of Jarno Trulli, who was teammate of Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who was teammate of Damon Hill, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

TIMO GLOCK drove for Virgin Racing, designed by Nick Wirth, who was team principal of David Brabham, son of Sir Jack Brabham.

LUCAS DI GRASSI drove for Virgin Racing, designed by Nick Wirth, who was team principal of David Brabham, son of Sir Jack Brabham.

BRUNO SENNA is the nephew of Ayrton Senna, who was teammate of Satoru Nakajima, who was teammate of Stefano Modena, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

KARUN CHANDHOK teammate of Bruno Senna, is the nephew of Ayrton Senna, who was teammate of Satoru Nakajima, who was teammate of Stefano Modena, who drove for Brabham, the team established by Sir Jack Brabham.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

On why Formula 1 has always been boring

Formula 1 motor racing has always been boring. You can almost count the number of wheel-to-wheel races between truly evenly-matched cars on the fingers of two hands. When you're in a meritocratic situation, regardless of the sport, this will usually be the case.

Nevertheless, whilst there are no "solutions" to the problem (people always want "solutions", for whatever reason), there are a number of things - the majority of which could be quite easily changed in time even for the next race in 10 days time - that would spice up the on-track action immeasurably.

1. Circuits

Think of some examples of classic F1 duels between completely equal cars. Now disregard Nigel Mansell passing Ayrton Senna in Spain 1991 - Mansell's car was easily better and streaked away once it got the lead. Now disregard Gilles Villeneuve and René Arnoux at Dijon in 1979 - Arnoux's car was hobbled with engine trouble.

What you will be left with is some dusty old footage of Formula 1 from between 1950 and 1970, essentially the pre-aerodynamic era of the sport, which may prove a significant point later on. Consider the classic slipstreamers of the Italian Grand Prix, or Jackie Stewart and Jochen Rindt's race-long duel at Silverstone in 1969, or Mike Hawthorn side-by-side with Fangio for mile after mile at Reims in 1953.

The common factor here is not car design, nor aerodynamics - both Stewart and Rindt and the classic 1971 Italian Grand Prix came after the advent of wing technology. It is circuit design. Fast, flowing circuits allow drivers to race one another. I'll repeat that. Fast, flowing circuits allow drivers to race one another.

Had the 2010 season started at Interlagos, Brazil, for example, or at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montréal, all the bellyaching we are currently enduring could have, at least temporarily, been avoided. Put it simply, give the drivers a track where they have a realistic chance of racing one another and they will do so. Bahrain's Sakhir circuit is yet to produce a classic Grand Prix, and with its new fiddly, bumpy, eight-turn addition is even less likely to in future.

We'll get to Sepang in three weeks and it'll rain, the racing will be outrageous and all this will be forgotten. Until we arrive in Barcelona. Then it will be forgotten again after Montréal. At no time will anybody ever think of blaming the circuits. They're so modern. They're so safe. The garages are so roomy. The air-conditioning in the press room is just-so. And so it goes on.

2. Aerodynamics

To the credit of the Technical Working Group, they tried this. But Formula 1 designers are relentlessly clever. However, the simple fact of the matter is that, even at the first race of the new era in 2009, three teams turned up with a device that completely shagged all the efforts to spice up the racing. The double diffuser makes it more difficult for a car to follow another car closely. It's as simple as that. Get rid of it and things will immediately get better.

Whilst they're at it, someone could perhaps have a look at the bewildering array of feathers and bells that have started sprouting out of the front wings again and get rid of them, too. Simpler aerodynamics leads to greater reliance on driver input. More driver input equals better races.

3. Tyres

Nice and easy, this one - remove the tyre restrictions. Yes, I know Formula 1 is trying to be seen to be cutting costs and saving the environment. But at the moment it could be risk of doing both of these things in the best possible way, by making itself obsolete.

Give the drivers back their 14 sets for the weekend for starters. Next, remove the silly rule about having to run both compounds during the race. This removed a vital tactical variable - you can't expect to ban refuelling and then effectively railroad all the teams into using the same strategy and still expect exciting races.

Finally, allow the drivers to choose from all four compounds of tyre - super-soft, soft, medium and hard - at every race, using whichever ones they choose and starting on whichever ones they choose. Maybe some cars or drivers will, over the course of practice, realise their optimum race time would be given by 2 stops on a soft tyre. Others will find it's one stop on the medium, or running non-stop on the hard. Additional pit stops and different race programmes will mix up the field, put slow cars trying to preserve their tyres ahead of the sprinters. The overtaking and excitement this would produce is as artificial as during the refuelling era, but it is still overtaking and excitement!

4. Pit lane

To assist with 3., raise the pit lane speed limit. OK, there are safety implications to this, and in some places - Monaco immediately springs to mind, but also places like Valencia - it would be entirely impractical to the point of recklessness. However, increasing the limit during races to 100mph would lead to shorter pit stop loss times. Shorter pit stop loss times would, in turn, make aggressive tyre strategies more tempting and achievable for the teams.

Ultimately, it has to be remembered that Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. The finest designers, working for the best teams, producing bespoke cars for the world's greatest racing drivers. It's always likely to be two-by-two processional fare a lot of the time. If you want to be entertained by motor racing, watch the British Touring Car Championship. It's certainly what I do.

But it will never stop me from loving Formula 1 the most.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Formula 1 2010 - I get things wrong

I'm writing this on Thursday morning, so as to hopefully avoid any accusations of cheating. However, given the standard of my predictions last year, such an outcome is probably fairly unlikely.

This year's Formula 1 World Championship is perhaps more predictable than last years', in terms of the dramatis personae. However, the huge variability given to pre-season testing times by the new fuel regulation makes it hard to know exactly where people will stand when all things are equal.

Nevertheless, I'm happy to make a complete fool of myself by trying to predict the final top 10 standings in both the drivers' and constructors' championships, so here we go.


I think Fernando Alonso will be the 2010 World Champion. The Ferrari looks to be at least as competitive as anything else in the field, and that's all the advantage a driver of his standard needs. I think his closest challengers will be Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel, because over 19 races it's hard to look past the cream rising to the top. I also fancy Jenson Button, Felipe Massa, Michael Schumacher and Mark Webber will win races, which will of course be excellent news for the sport. I'd also not discount Nico Rosberg from making the step up to a winner. This leaves two more places in the top ten. I think that Sauber will start the year with the best car of the rest, and that this should help a canny competitor like Pedro de la Rosa to get some good points on the board early. I'd not be surprised, though, if Rubens Barrichello were to overhaul his tally by the time Abu Dhabi comes around.

Best of the rookies will be a tough contest, with no newcomer to the sport really appearing to be a duffer. In terms of points scored, however, it's hard to see past Kamui Kobayashi or Nico Hülkenberg. I think the German will just edge it.

Prediction: 1. Alonso; 2. Hamilton; 3. Vettel; 4. Button; 5. Massa; 6. Schumacher; 7. Webber; 8. Rosberg; 9. Barrichello; 10. de la Rosa.


2010 promises to be an almighty scrap between four teams for the top honours. So often in recent seasons, the cars have been so evenly matched in performance that it has boiled down to who has the strongest driver line-up. As such, I think 2010 could just be McLaren's year, unless Ferrari have really stolen a significant march in terms of car design. Red Bull will run everybody close and Mercedes will hardly disgrace themselves. The second battle royale looks set to be for 5th place, with Sauber, Williams, Force India, and Renault all in contention. I fancy Sauber to edge it, chased hard by Williams who should see off the challenge of Force India's quick new car by dint of having the better drivers. Toro Rosso look as though they'll have a lonely year.

In the battle of the new teams - the truly new teams - I think Virgin begin the season with the advantage, and if they get their reliability sorted out they could effectively put themselves beyond reach by the time Lotus start to wring some speed from the T127. Hispania seem set for a long, hard, season.

Prediction: 1. McLaren-Mercedes; 2. Ferrari; 3. Red Bull-Renault; 4. Mercedes; 5. Sauber-Ferrari; 6. Williams-Cosworth; 7. Force India-Mercedes; 8. Renault; 9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari; 10. Virgin Racing-Cosworth.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Formula 1 2010 - the drivers (1-6)

The 2010 Formula 1 World Championship begins in Bahrain this Friday morning and it promises to be one of the most open in years. On the days leading up to the start of practice, I'll be taking a look at the 24 runners and riders taking part this year. In today's final part, McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull.


McLaren's MP4/24 car was one of the worst that the team had ever produced, but a magnificent effort saw them claw back a full 2.5 seconds per lap in time, finishing the season with race wins, pole positions and fastest laps. It's difficult to see them making the same mistake again with the MP4/25. Pre-season testing has shown considerable promise, but the effect of their effort to sort out the shortcomings of their car last season is yet to be seen, as is the end of their lengthy technological partnership with Mercedes. If 2009 taught us anything, however, it's that McLaren will be there or thereabouts.


BIOGRAPHY: Jenson Button was born in Frome on 19th January 1980. Britain's youngest ever Grand Prix driver, Button nevertheless found time to win the 1998 British Formula Ford championship and three races in the following season's British Formula 3 series, before his elevation to the top table.

F1 PEDIGREE: Like his ertswhile teammate Rubens Barrichello, the fact Button was so young when he started in Formula 1 racing can make you forget how experienced he in fact is. Button is now a veteran of 171 Grands Prix, of which he has won seven. Six of them came last season, when he won his first World Championship.

PROSPECTS: Jenson Button came of age in 2009, finally realising all his potential at the same time, particularly in his ferocious burst at the start of the season in which it seemed like there was nobody else on the circuit. Now seeking that sportman's favourite, "a new challenge", Button finds himself in a British superteam. His super-smooth diving style could well aid him under the new fuel regulations this season. What it's important to not lose sight of, though, is that it took Button 10 seasons to reach a goal which, as late as 2008, looked to have passed him by. As such, he'll be in no hurry to give it away. Button will surely win races in 2010.

IN A IDEAL WORLD: Jenson Button will become the first British driver ever to retain the Formula 1 World Championship.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: All the worst fears about Button being steamrollered by Lewis Hamilton will come to pass and the reigning champion will be reduced to being a back-up man.


BIOGRAPHY: Lewis Hamilton was born in Stevenage on 7th January 1985. Known to the motor racing world since he was 10 years old, after a deal with McLaren's boss Ron Dennis, his early single-seater career was - by his standards - a slightly stuttering one. When he found his feet, though, he simply blitzed his way to the top of the sport, winning the 2005 Formula 3 Euroseries and 2006 GP2 series, in addition to the 2005 Formula 3 Masters event.

F1 PEDIGREE: No driver since Michael Schumacher has made such an immediate impact in the sport. Lewis Hamilton moved to McLaren's race team in 2007 and promptly finished on the podium in his first nine races, winning two of them. Two more victories followed, and it was just inexperience, plus a car problem at the last race, that cost him the title in his debut season. Five more wins in 2008 saw him become the sport's youngest ever World Champion. Two more wins followed in 2009, despite an awful start, taking his tally to 11 from just 52 races.

PROSPECTS: There's no point denying that Lewis Hamilton is arguably the best racing driver in the world today. I think Fernando Alonso is a more rounded package, but no-one in the field can match Hamilton's pace over one lap. The trying time he endured in 2009 have also added a new intelligence an maturity to his approach, without tempering any of his enormous aggression and speed. If the car is good, Hamilton will win a second world champion in a blink of an eye.

IN A IDEAL WORLD: World Championship number two.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: There's not much that could conceivably knock Hamilton's reputation in the sport, but I think he would be deeply mortified on a personal level to be beaten by Jenson Button - be he the World Champion or not - over the course of 19 races.


The return of the most successful team in the history of Grand Prix motor racing, having bought the Brawn outfit who, in terms of statistics alone, were their closest rivals. The MGP W01 car looks to be a decent machine, with a high fallutin' super-diffuser promised for the start of the race meeting tomorrow. At the moment, they look to be the fourth best of the big four teams, but neither Mercedes, nor Ross Brawn or Michael Schumacher, are accustomed or willing to tolerate anything less than success.


BIOGRAPHY: Michael Schumacher was born in Hürth-Hermülheim on 3rd January 1969. A product of the Mercedes junior system, he won the 1990 German Formula 3 championship, as well as that season's Macau Grand Prix, before going on to win two rounds of the Sports Car World Championship for the three-pointed star.

F1 PEDIGREE: Almost too long to go into. Schumacher is by far the most statistically successful Grand Prix driver of all time. Among his records are the following: (from 250 Grands Prix) most World Championship titles (7), most consecutive World Championship titles (5), most Grand Prix wins (91), most pole positions (68), most fastest laps (76), most podium finishes (154) and most championship points (1369). Did I also mention that, aside from the numbers alone, he is a brilliant racing driver?

PROSPECTS: The key question mark surrounding the biggest-name comeback the sport has ever seen is the physical condition of Schumacher's neck, which he injured in a motorcycle racing accident trying to get his fix at the start of 2009. Other questions have included whether his skills will have dulled and whether the same desire will be there. I don't think these are particularly pressing concerns, as we are talking about Michael Schumacher. Schumacher has never driven a full season of Formula 1 without winning a race, and it's hard to see him not keeping up his record.

IN A IDEAL WORLD: Unless the Mercedes GP car finds a little more pace compared to its key rivals, it's hard to see Michael Schumacher adding title number 8. Multiple race wins.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Schumacher's neck gives out and he has to meekly walk away. However, there's little that could significantly dent his standing in the history of the sport. If the driver in the current field with the second-highest number of Grand Prix wins - Fernando Alonso - wins in Bahrain and then just keeps on going, it wouldn't be until race 14 of the 2013 season until he overhauls Michael Schumacher's record.


BIOGRAPHY: Nico Rosberg was born in Weisbaden on 27th June 1985. Son of the 1982 World Champion Keke Rosberg, Nico's path through the junior formulae was perhaps predictably impressive. Having won the 2002 German Formula BMW title and four races across two seasons in the Formula 3 Euroseries, he went on to win the inaugural GP2 series crown from Heikki Kovalainen.

F1 PEDIGREE: Rosberg made his Formula 1 debut at Bahrain in 2006 for Williams, promptly finishing 7th and becoming the youngest driver to ever turn the fastest lap of a Grand Prix into the bargain. Since then, his chances have been limited by the standard and - more usually - the reliability of his car. Last season was his most consistent yet in Formula 1, though he will be disappointed it didn't see him add to his 2 podium finishes. Second place in the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix remains his best result from 70 races.

PROSPECTS: Now moving to his second Formula 1 team, there's no doubting what Rosberg's aim must be for this season. And until he does it, doubts will always surround him, especially after a mistake cost him a sure second-place at last year's Singapore race. His pace in qualifying can also be underwhelming compared to the speed he is capable of in both practice and the races. What there is no doubting, however, is that Rosberg is fast, consistent and hugely capable. Not yet 25, it's hard to see him not winning a race sooner or later. It could well open the floodgates when he does.

IN A IDEAL WORLD: Rosberg holds his own in qualifying against Michael Schumacher and wins his first Grand Prix.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Rosberg joins the growing list of drivers chewed up and spat out by Michael Schumacher's Formula 1 career. Mercedes wonder if Sebastian Vettel would be a better fit for their seat.


2009's RB5 car was the class of the field, winning the last three events of the season, despite the notable disadvantage of being a late adopter of the double-diffuser concept. In designer Adrian Newey, the team have one of the all-time Formula 1 greats, and the majority of the 2010 field have honoured him by imitation with their cars for this campaign. The RB6 is yet another classically sleek and elegant Newey car, which has flown in testing. Perhaps its weakest link is the reliability of the Renault engine. Red Bull are also, of course, the only team out of the four major championship hopefuls to not boast a World Champion driver. Yet.


BIOGRAPHY: Sebastian Vettel was born in Heppenheim on 3rd July 1987. One of the youngest drivers to ever start a Grand Prix, Vettel has understandably limited lower-formulae experience. However, he did win the 2004 German Formula BMW crown, as well as four races in the 2006 Formula 3 Euroseries.

F1 PEDIGREE: The youngest man ever to win a World Championship Grand Prix, Sebastian Vettel could still become the youngest ever World Champion if he were to go one better than last season's runner-up spot. In 43 races, he has won five times, including one bewilderingly improbable victory on pace alone in a Toro Rosso, at Monza 2008. Also searingly quick over one lap, Vettel will most likely be Lewis Hamilton's biggest challenger for the most pole positions in the 2010 season.

PROSPECTS: The sky is the limit for Sebastian Vettel, after a magnificent 2009 season. But for a little inexperience - understandable at 22 years of age - and persistent engine gripes, he could have been World Champion. As it was, he won 4 races, 4 pole positions and 3 fastest laps, as well as overhauling Rubens Barrichello's points tally in the season's final race. If Sebastian Vettel doesn't win multiple World Championships, I would be very surprised. With the right car, he's ready to start immediately.

IN A IDEAL WORLD: World Champion.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Vettel loses out to Mark Webber due to a series of niggling mistakes and car problems.


BIOGRAPHY: Mark Webber was born in Queanbeyan on 27th August 1976. The only driver in the big four teams without a championship title to his name, Webber has nevertheless been a consistently successful driver throughout his career, having variously won the 1996 Formula Ford Festival, four races in International Formula 3000 (as well as being the series runner-up in 2001) and five wins towards being the season runner-up in the 1998 FIA GT Championship.

F1 PEDIGREE: A veteran of 139 Grands Prix, Webber finally broke his duck in Germany last season with a typically bullish drive from his first ever F1 pole position. An effortlessly smooth triumph in Brazil followed, as well as 3 fastest laps. But for a spell of mediocre races in mid-summer, Webber looked the more likely of the two Red Bull drivers to take the fight to the Brawn GP team. Such a series of non-races was very much uncharacteristic of Webber, as reliable a driver as there is in Formula 1.

PROSPECTS: Webber was excellent in 2009. His first win was a masterpiece of heads-down Aussie aggression and raw speed, his second a masterclass from a driver who looked as though he'd been winning Grands Prix his whole life. His biggest problem is the bloke in the other car. Webber is one of the sport's greatest qualifiers, but last season saw Vettel blitz him 18-1, Webber's sole qualifying success being a pole position. Webber now looks like a driver capable of winning on a consistent basis and, by extension, is a potential World Champion. The thing is, can he really beat Sebastian Vettel over 19 rounds in the same car?

IN A IDEAL WORLD: Mark Webber becomes the most popular World Champion since Jesse Owens.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Kimi Räikkönen ends his WRC adventure after one season.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Formula 1 2010 - the drivers (7-12)

The 2010 Formula 1 World Championship begins in Bahrain this Friday morning and it promises to be one of the most open in years. On the days leading up to the start of practice, I'll be taking a look at the 24 runners and riders taking part this year. Today, Ferrari, Williams and Renault.


After a dismal 2009, Ferrari started work on their F10 car in the middle of last season. Predictably, it has been at the sharp end of pre-season testing from the beginning, and the Scuderia arrive in Bahrain as one of the favourites.


BIOGRAPHY: Felipe Massa was born in São Paulo on 25th April 1983. Flamboyant but always very fast, Massa cut a swathe through the single-seater formulae, winning the Brazilian Formula Chevrolet title in 1999, before moving to Europe and adding the Italian and European Formula Renault crowns in 2000 and the European Formula 3000 title in 2001.

F1 PEDIGREE: Massa made his Formula 1 debut in 2002 for Sauber, where he continued in his elbows-out swashbuckling style. However, at the top level, his lack of refinement cost him speed, and for 2003 he moved to Ferrari as a test driver. It proved to be a formative season, under the wing of Michael Schumacher. Retaining his speed but with less rough edges, Massa returned for two more seasons with Sauber in 2004, before moving to Ferrari as number 2 driver in 2006. He won two races that season, and three in 2007 as his teammate Kimi Räikkönen won the World Championship. Massa really came of age in 2008, winning more races than anyone and missing out on the title by a single point to Lewis Hamilton at the final race. He entered the 2009 championship as favourite, but was let down by the shortcomings of his car, before a freak accident in Hungary fractured his skull and left him lucky to be alive. Massa has started 114 Grands Prix, winning eleven.

PROSPECTS: A lot depends on how well Massa has recovered from his accident in Hungary last year, both physically and psychologically. As well as brain swelling, Massa sustained an injury to his eye, something which historically can put paid to the ultimate speed of a racing driver. Moreover, the fact that the accident was absolutely nothing to do with his own fault may yet play on his mind. If all of this has been put aside, as he is confident that it has, there is no reason why he can't be a force once again in 2010. He'll win races.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: In an absolute ideal world, Massa would finally win the world championship, but I think it's likely to be one season too soon for him after an accident of that magnitude. The best he can hope for is to match his new teammate in qualifying and win a handful of Grands Prix.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: There is a slim chance that Massa will face a realisation that he can't accept the risk of Formula 1 any more and walk away. It's very unlikely, however.


BIOGRAPHY: Fernando Alonso was born in Oviedo on 29th July 1981. Something of a prodigy in a country better known for producing motorcycle racers than racing drivers, he won the Open Fortuna by Nissan series in 1999, before going on to win at Spa in the following year's International Formula 3000 series.

F1 PEDIGREE: Extensive. Until Sebastian Vettel came on the scene, Alonso was the youngest driver ever to win an F1 pole and to win a World Championship Grand Prix, in Hungary 2003. Before Lewis Hamilton, he was also the youngest ever World Champion. He began his career at Minardi in 2001, impressing many in an awful car. A season as Renault's tester followed, before a step up to the race team in 2003. In 2005 he won the Formula 1 World Championship aged 24, following it up with a second title in 2006, becoming the sport's youngest ever double-World Champion. A difficult but competitive year at McLaren followed, followed by a troubled two-season return to Renault which saw him add just two further wins. All things being equal, Alonso is perhaps the most complete driver in Formula 1. He is also probably the only man ever to have beaten Michael Schumacher to the world title in equal machinery. His record is 21 wins from 139 starts, and a seriously impressive points-per-start ratio of 4.151.

PROSPECTS: After a ruinous 2009, Alonso will be like a coiled spring in 2010. He'll want to get back to winning ways as soon as possible, and as ever, if the car is anything like good enough to do so he'll be there straight away. Relentlessly consistent and brilliantly canny, I think Alonso will be the 2010 World Champion.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: World title number 3 beckons.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Alonso is outpaced and outraced by Felipe Massa.


Although not the force they once were, Williams had a solid 2009. It could have been even better still, had they had two good drivers instead of one - the team's points tally last season were all accrued by Nico Rosberg. The FW32 promises more of the same, neat and showing promise in pre-season testing. However, 5th place in the Constructor's standings is as good as they can realistically hope for.


BIOGRAPHY: Rubens Barrichello was born in São Paulo on 23rd May 1972. His early single-seater success came in Britain, winning the Formula Vauxhall Lotus series in 1990 and then Formula 3 in 1991. However, he was also prone to mistakes, one of which cost him the Blue Riband Formula 3 Masters in the latter year. His one season of Formula 3000 showed him adding consistency - perhaps at the expense of ultimate speed. Finishing third in the 1992 series, scoring points in all but one race, Barrichello's best single results were two second-places.

F1 PEDIGREE: Barrichello is the most experienced Formula 1 driver of all time, having entered 288 Grand Prix with Jordan, Stewart, Ferrari, Honda and Brawn. He's also won eleven times and finished as the championship runner-up on two occasions (2002 and 2004). However, it was his performance last year, in his 17th full campaign, that really was the most impressive yet. As Jenson Button increasingly stuggled with the Brawn car, Barrichello got better and better, winning two races and pushing the Briton all the way to the flag. He's fast, consistent, hugely experienced and still one of the fastest wet-weather drivers in the field. Don't discount, either, the fact that he starts the season as one of only two drivers to have driven in pre-mid race refuelling Formula 1.

PROSPECTS: 18 seasons and 285 starts don't seemed to have dulled Barrichello's passion. He still looks driven by the thought he has something to prove at this level, and to that end it is worth saying that in the past three seasons, he has driven better than at any time before in his epic F1 career. If he keeps up the same standard and the motivation remains, there's no reason to believe Rubens won't rack up 350+ Grands Prix.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: It would probably take a crazy race, most likely in the wet conditions in which he so excels, for Barrichello to win a race in 2010, but it would be hugely popular. Realistically, a podium or three would be terrific.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Barrichello is outpaced and outraced by a rookie teammate and finally walks away from the sport come the autumn.


BIOGRAPHY: Nico Hülkenberg was born in Emmerich am Rhein on 19th August 1987. Ominously for his rivals, his career path is very similar to that of Lewis Hamilton, as Hülkenberg arrives in F1 having just scythed his way to the Formula 3 Euroseries and GP2 Series crowns in successive years. Also the winner of the 2005 German Formula BMW title, the 2007 A1 Grand Prix championship for Germany and the 2007 Formula 3 Masters - plus a race winner in the GP2 Asia Series - Hülkenberg is also represented by Michael Schumacher's old manager, Willi Weber.

F1 PEDIGREE: Williams' test driver for several years, 2010 is Hülkenberg's first Formula 1 season on the race team.

PROSPECTS: The sky seems to be the limit for Hülkenberg. If Williams' car is as competitive as it has seemed in pre-season testing, there's no reason whatsoever that he won't be able to match the results of his epically experienced teammate. Having Barrichello's huge knowledge in the other garage won't do him any harm either. This could be the start of one of this decade's biggest Formula 1 careers.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: A podium finish or two.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Hülkenberg joins the ranks of drivers who never quite make their mark in Formula 1, after stellar early careers.


Renault had as horrible a season as it's possible to have without loss of life in 2009. An uncompetitive car, internal political strife and then the Crashgate bomb dropped. Unsurprisingly, the Régie seriously considered pulling out of the sport during the winter. Instead, they sold the team to the Swiss investment firm Genii Capital. An interim year is most likely on the cards.


BIOGRAPHY: Robert Kubica was born in Warsaw on 7th December 1984. Poland's first real superstar racing driver, Kubica's early career is best summed up as impressive but never overly so. A race winner in every discipline he has tried, his sole championship success came in the World Series by Renault in 2005.

F1 PEDIGREE: Kubica made the step up from test driver after Jacques Villeneuve walked away from BMW Sauber in 2006. He instantly made an impression, qualifying in the top 10 for his first Grand Prix and finishing in the points, albeit that he was later disqualified for technical irregularities. However, a podium finish a couple of races down the line at Monza really put him on the map, and guaranteed him a three-year stint with BMW. 2007 was difficult, outpaced by Nick Heidfeld and involved in a huge roll in Canada which saw him have to sit out the following week's US GP. In 2008 he took a big step forward, winning in Montreal and being a serious if unexpected title contender right up until the penultimate race. 2009 should have been his best chance yet, but he simply didn't have the car. His career so far has taken in 57 races, with 1 win, 1 pole position and 137 points.

PROSPECTS: The fate of Kubica's season lies, once again, very much in the quality of his machinery. Should the car go well, he's already proved he is capable of getting the job done on a consistent basis. If it doesn't, his head tends to go down a little, although to his credit his on-track performances don't seem to suffer as a result. Kubica, given the right opportunity, is still a potential World Championship contender. Not a chance in 2010, though.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: A podium finish.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Kubica spends another year floridly outlining the flaws in his car over the pit radio for the entertainment of the watching world during Friday practice sessions.


BIOGRAPHY: Vitaly Petrov was born in Vyborg on 8th September 1984. A hugely successful driver in his native Russia, he won the Formula Lada Cup in 2002, Russian Formula Renault 1600 series in 2005 and the Lada Revolution Series in 2006. Stepping up to the European stage has seen him continue to build on this. In GP2 he won races in each of the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons, scoring twice in last season's series to finish as the championship runner-up to Nico Hülkenberg. A season in GP2 Asia gave a similar return, with wins in both the 2008 and 2009 campaigns seeing him finish 3rd and 5th overall in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

F1 PEDIGREE: Russia's first ever Formula 1 driver is another of 2010's rookies.

PROSPECTS: There's a solidity to Petrov's career so far, coupled with an unassumingness which could see him spring a surprise or two in his debut year. I expect that his teammate will have the measure of him over the course of the season, but equally would not be surprised to see Petrov stay in Formula 1 for the forseeable future.

A podium finish, perhaps. Consistent points scoring, too, would be very welcome after two years of floundering second drivers.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: People start to wonder if there's not another Eastern European country to find racing drivers in.

Tomorrow: McLaren, Mercedes and Red Bull.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Formula 1 2010 - the drivers (14-19)

The 2010 Formula 1 World Championship begins in Bahrain this Friday morning and it promises to be one of the most open in years. On the days leading up to the start of practice, I'll be taking a look at the 24 runners and riders taking part this year. Today, Force India, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Lotus Racing.


The VJM02 car took a lot of people by surprise towards the end of last season, with a series of exceptional performances on the faster tracks. This year's VJM03 car has shown that this was not an accident with a series of performances in pre-season testing which were, at the very worst, solid. A serious battle for 5th place in the Constructors' Cup beckons.


BIOGRAPHY: Adrian Sutil was born in Starnberg on 11th January 1983. A long-time friend and teammate of Lewis Hamilton, Sutil spent much of his European racing career in the Briton's shadow. The winner of the 2002 Swiss Formula Ford 1800 series, it was not until he went to Japan that he scored his first major single-seater championship success, the 2006 All-Japan Formula 3 title.

F1 PEDIGREE: 2010 will be Adrian Sutil's 4th Formula 1 season. He has driven in 52 races but scored points on just two occasions, one of which - a battling 4th place at Monza last Autumn - gave him his best ever championship placing of 17th. Much of that has been down to shortcomings in the car, but the shortcomings of his current mount are becoming less and less by the race. He needs to perform in 2010.

PROSPECTS: Sutil seems to be the modern-day Andrea de Cesaris. Sometimes fast - sometimes incredibly so - but too often embroiled in chaos of his own making. His natural speed and talent is made abundantly clear by his consistently excellent performances in the wet and at Monaco. However, performing brilliantly for 85% of the race distance before taking two or more corners off the car just doesn't cut it at this level. With Paul di Resta - a highly-rated young Scot - now in place as the team's third driver, Sutil needs to add some reliability to temper his speed, and quickly.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: Adrian Sutil finishes every single race of the season, accruing a hatful of points for his patient employers.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Sutil continues his one-man quest to start a Formula 1 parts business and is replaced by Paul di Resta in mid-season.


BIOGRAPHY: Vitantonio Liuzzi was born in Locorotondo on 6th August 1981. A player on the scene in European single seaters for almost a decade, Liuzzi's biggest claim to fame so far was his success in the 2004 International Formula 3000 championship, the last Formula 3000 series before it was replaced by GP2. Having finished 4th the previous season, Liuzzi produced a record-breaking send off for the series, winning 7 out of 10 events.

F1 PEDIGREE: A Red Bull protegé, Liuzzi made his Formula 1 bow at Imola in 2005, driving for the factory team. In 2006 and 2007 he ran full campaigns for their junior Toro Rosso outfit. All in all, he has scored points on 4 occasions in 44 races, with a best of 6th. This year should prove to be his best opportunity yet to show what he can do with a competitive car.

PROSPECTS: Liuzzi has never really shown the form that won him the F3000 title at the top level. However, he is a popular and respected competitor amongst his fellow practitioners. He's solid if unspectacular, which arguably makes him the ideal foil for Adrian Sutil. However, I expect him to outscore the German over the course of the full season.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: Liuzzi gets a slice of luck somewhere and sneaks onto the podium.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Liuzzi is outpaced and outscored by Adrian Sutil, with only his lower repair bills saving him from the mid-season chop.


2010 sees a big step forward for the Red Bull junior team, with their STR5 car the first they have produced without any design assistance from the factory outfit. This is a shame for them, as last year's Red Bull car ended the season as the undeniable class of the field. They'll be looking to get into the fight to be the best of the midfield teams, with Force India, Sauber, Williams and Renault, but I don't think they'll quite have the puff.


BIOGRAPHY: Sébastien Buemi was born in Aigle on 31st October 1988. Despite his youth, he's proved a very capable driver in both Formula 3 and GP2, with multiple race wins to his name in either category. However, he is yet to win a major single-seater title.

F1 PEDIGREE: Question marks were raised over Buemi as he began his first year in Formula 1 in 2009. A 20-year old Swiss driver is hardly the stuff Formula 1 legends are made of. As it turned out, he was one of the finds of the year. Never out of place at the top table, Buemi went on to make a thorough nuisance of himself throughout the season, twice qualifying in the top 10 on pace alone and scoring points on 4 occasions - including in Melbourne on his debut.

PROSPECTS: After such a solid debut year, 2010 could prove the difficult second season for Buemi. Now very much the team leader at STR, despite his tender years, he has to continue to show his potential whilst also shouldering more responsibility. I think it could prove a difficult ask. However, we all thought the same thing last year.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: Buemi continues in the same vein as 2009, getting more points on the board.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Buemi is outpaced by his teammate and finds himself facing life as an F1 reject aged just 22.


BIOGRAPHY: Jaime Alguersuari was born in Barcelona on 23rd March 1990. He is the first Formula 1 driver to have been born in that decade. However, although he's still not 20, he has two championship titles to his name: the 2006 Italian Formula Renault Winter Series and the prestigious British Formula 3 championship in 2008.

F1 PEDIGREE: The youngest man ever to start a Grand Prix, Alguersuari was very much thrown in at the deep end in Hungary 2009. With in-season testing at that time banned - it has since been amended to allow drivers who have not driven a Grand Prix in the last 2 years have a day's practice before starting a race meeting - Alguersuari did an admirable job of qualifying at a very respectable pace and then finishing the race. His lack of experience began to tell in some later races, with inconsistency and accidents creeping in on a Sunday afternoon. His best finish in Formula 1 is 12th place.

PROSPECTS: Alguersuari was mightily impressive in the way he acquitted himself in 2009, as the challenge he faced was an enormous one. His next big test is to take a step up in performance, having had a full winter's testing programme. I expect good things from Alguersuari, but not quite yet.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: A series of solid race finishes, culminating in some points here and there.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Alguersuari finds himself back in a testing role as Red Bull move another of their young drivers into the race seat for 2011.


The T127 car was literally not even conceived of, let alone drawn or built as late as September 2009, so its place on the grid in Bahrain is little short of miraculous. Their pre-season testing times have been less so... indeed, at times they have been little short of embarrassing. However, there is solid investment behind the project, a good engineering team and experienced drivers. Things will get better as the season draws on.


BIOGRAPHY: Jarno Trulli was born in Pescara on 13th July 1974. He won the prestigious German Formula 3 championship aged 22 in 1996.

F1 PEDIGREE: Trulli starts 2010 as the field's third most experienced driver, a veteran of 219 Grand Prix. He made his debut in Australia in 1997 for Minardi, moving to Prost after Olivier Panis broke his legs at the Canadian race. In his 13th race, he led the Austrian Grand Prix for half its distance, but from then on his potential has never truly been realised. Later a driver for Jordan, Renault and Toyota, Trulli is invariably a better qualifier than he is a racer, although he has eleven podium finishes including one Grand Prix win to his name - at Monaco in 2004, also the year in which he enjoyed his best ever championship position of 6th.

PROSPECTS: Experienced, yes, and a brilliant qualifier, but Jarno Trulli has always flattered to deceive at the top level. Time after time his pace fades badly on race day, to the extent that rival teams' strategists plan contingencies should their car get caught in one of his legendary midfield Trulli trains. The pity is that in modern Formula 1, with its strictly limited testing, that a driver of Trulli's experience is utterly invaluable despite his shortcomings.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: Jarno Trulli will find more speed on race day than he did in qualifying and not hold anybody up all year.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Trulli will flounder about at the back but never, ever get fired until he is 95-years old.


BIOGRAPHY: Heikki Kovalainen was born in Suomussalmi on 19th October 1981. Hugely experienced and very successful in European single-seater racing, Kovalainen first made his name in Britain before adding the World Series by Nissan title to his CV in 2004. The following season he finished as runner-up to Nico Rosberg in the inaugural GP2 Series, with a very respectable five race wins. Outside of competitive motorsport, he is perhaps best known as having beaten Michael Schumacher in the final of the 2004 Race of Champions rally event.

F1 PEDIGREE: Kovalainen made his race debut for Renault in 2007, having stepped up from test driver. It was a slow start in a tricky car, but he eventually started to find his feet to score some good results, including an excellent 2nd at a streaming wet Fuji Speedway in 2007. A move to McLaren for 2008 and 2009 saw him go one better, inheriting a victory in the 2008 Hungarian Grand Prix after Felipe Massa's Ferrari engine failed. This makes Lotus the only team from outside the big four to boast two Grand Prix-winning drivers on its books.

PROSPECTS: Kovalainen's reputation and confidence has taken a significant hit alongside Lewis Hamilton for the past two seasons. In 2008 he looked to be still finding his feet, but scored a win, a pole and some fastest laps and looked to be building up to a better 2009. The car's shortcomings put a stop to that, but whilst Hamilton never stopped improving throughout a difficult season, Kovalainen seemed mired in the midfield, even when the car had developed past that level. He has much to prove in 2010. Beating Jarno Trulli would be a useful start for rebuilding his reputation, especially in qualifying.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: Kovalainen outqualifies Trulli more often than not. A point if they get really, really lucky.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Kovalainen's stock in F1 hangs by a thread after his mauling at McLaren, and a season of coming off second-best to Jarno Trulli will most likely see him having to find another form of motorsport to try.

Tomorrow: Ferrari, Williams and Renault.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Formula 1 2010 - the drivers (20-25)

The 2010 Formula 1 World Championship begins in Bahrain this Friday morning and it promises to be one of the most open in years. On the days leading up to the start of practice, I'll be taking a look at the 24 runners and riders taking part this year. Today, HRT, Sauber and Virgin Racing.


The HRT car, designated the HRT, has been designed by Dallara. However, due to the team's own financial problems, delivery was not taken until the week after the last official test of the pre-season. As such, the HRT seems likely to not turn a wheel until the first Free Practice session of the morning. HRT will most likely treat the first Grand Prix of 2010 as an extended test session. Reliability will be the best they can hope for in the early races, as I anticipate the car will prove significantly slower than all of its rivals, initially at least.


BIOGRAPHY: Karun Chandhok was born in Chennai on 19th January 1984. He was the Formula Asia champion in 2001, and the Formula Asia V6 by Renault champion in 2006. From 2007 onwards, he has been racing mainly in Europe's GP2 series. A winner of two races, Chandhok has otherwise been fairly inconsistent, resulting in a best championship placing of 10th in 2008. A stint in the winter GP2 Asia series proved less successful still.

F1 PEDIGREE: 2010 is Chandhok's first season in Formula 1.

PROSPECTS: Let's face it, Chandhok is in a F1 race seat for his nationality as much as anything else. FOM are keen to exploit the huge Indian market, with a view to an Indian Grand Prix in 2011 or 2012. This is not to say that Chandhok is a rubbish driver. However, I would argue that there were several of his contemporaries on the European single-seater circuit better placed for his drive in terms of racing CV alone. Bernie Ecclestone has called today for people to be patient with Chandhok, a fairly significant indication of the position Chandhok is occupying in the sport.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: Chandhok will find his feet quickly and equal the pace set by his teammate throughout the season.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Chandhok finds himself stuck fast to the bottom of the timesheets whilst cynical people like me continue to moan on about pay drivers, the relationship of sport to business in the modern world and the politics of nationality.


BIOGRAPHY: Bruno Senna was born in São Paulo on 15th October 1983. His mother, Viviane Lalli, is the elder sister of 3-time Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna. Unlike his uncle, Bruno Senna arrives in Formula 1 with no single seater championship titles to his name. However, he is a proven race winner in a number of categories, and finished as runner-up in the 2008 GP2 series. During that campaign, he won the prestigious GP2 Monaco race.

F1 PEDIGREE: Like his teammate, Senna starts 2010 as a rookie.

PROSPECTS: Bruno Senna, like Karun Chandhok, is arguably in Formula 1 for reasons supplementary to his skill alone. In Senna's case, it is the surname which has opened doors. However, he has nevertheless always made the most of the opportunities it has afforded him. Some drivers blaze a trail to the summit of single-seater racing and then flounder in Formula 1. Others have a more solid and unspectacular route, but make full use of their chance in F1 when it presents. I have a feeling Senna too will prove to be of the latter category.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: Senna overcomes the disadvantage of the lack of time with the car, scores a point or two and lays the foundation for a long-term career in F1.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Senna is outpaced by Karun Chandhok.


Sauber return to Formula 1 as a constructor for the first time since 2005. Their C29 car is based on what would have been the BMW F1.10, and thanks to the uniquely silly way Formula 1 works, the team retain the BMW name even though the car will be powered by a Ferrari engine. Nomenclature aside, the Sauber car has shown good pace in pre-season tests, and may prove to be a good outside best for the best-of-the-rest 5th place in this year's Constructors' Cup.


BIOGRAPHY: Pedro de la Rosa was born in Barcelona on 24th February 1971. A driver of huge experience and pedigree, his earliest single seater title (Spanish Formula Fiat) came in 1989. The following year he added the Spanish Formula Ford crown, and then the European Formula Renault, British Formula Renault( both 1992), All-Japan Formula 3 (1995), Formula Nippon and All-Japan GT (both 1997) championships to his weighty CV.

F1 PEDIGREE: For a driver of his calibre, de la Rosa has driven surprisingly few Grands Prix - 72 - between 1999 and 2002 and 2005 and 2006. His best result was 2nd place in the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix, with 11th place in the final standings in the same year his best championship result. From 2005 to 2009 he was the test driver for McLaren Mercedes.

PROSPECTS: De la Rosa may have wondered if his time as a racing driver in Formula 1 had passed. However, he is a spirited, consistent and skillful performer, whose experience will prove invaluable to the team.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: A podium finish may not prove out of the question, if some of the leading runners inconvenience themselves. De la Rosa will probably be aiming for regular points finishes in 2010.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: De la Rosa finds himself comprehensively outpaced by his rookie teammate and quietly sneaks out of the back door come the season's end.


BIOGRAPHY: Kamui Kobayashi was born in Amagasaki on 13th September 1986. Like a lot of his Japanese contemporaries, Kobayashi has looked towards Europe to further their single-seater career rather than stay in their own country's motor racing ladder as they tended to in the previous generation. Kobayashi duly won the 2005 Italian and European Formula Renault titles, adding the GP2 Asia Series crown in 2009.

F1 PEDIGREE: Kobayashi made his Formula 1 bow in Friday practice at the 2009 Japanese Grand Prix for Toyota, sitting in for the unwell Timo Glock. After Glock injured his back in qualifying for that race the following day, Kobayashi was promoted to the race seat for the season's final two races. His qualifying performance in impossible weather conditions in Brazil were outstanding, as was his somewhat flamboyant performance in the race. More controlled but no less impressive two weeks later in Abu Dhabi, Kobayashi finished in 6th place in just his second Grand Prix.

PROSPECTS: He was a little wild and woolly in his races last season, but there's no doubting that the speed is very much there. The question is now whether he can retain it, whilst reigning in some of his rougher edges. If he can, Kobayashi may prove to be the man to one day be Japan's first Grand Prix winner.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: A podium finish, perhaps.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Kobayashi is outpaced by de la Rosa and he continues to prove unpredictable on track.


The VR-01 car has been designed by Nick Wirth, exclusively using Computational Fluid Dynamics rather than the traditional route of scale models and windtunnel time. A bold move, and one which was called into question after a spate of front wing failures in early testing. However, the key worry now for the team - who are run at the circuit by the experienced John Booth and his Manor Motorsport outfit - is reliability, particularly in its hydraulic system. A brand new team for 2010, Virgin will have to overcome this problem if they want to be the best of the new intake.

Car 24: TIMO GLOCK (D)

BIOGRAPHY: Timo Glock was born in Lindenfels on 18th March 1982. Also a race winner in the Formula 3 Euroseries, he won the BMW Formula ADAC championship in 2001 and then went on to take the GP2 crown in 2007. He is one of four GP2 Series champions to be competing in Formula 1 this season. Glock is also a former winner of the CART Champ Car World Series rookie of the year award.

F1 PEDIGREE: Glock in fact made his Grand Prix debut at the Canadian Grand Prix in 2004. At the time he was the test driver for Jordan, and stepped up when regular driver Giorgio Pantano fell ill. He impressed with a points finish in 7th place, earning him a handful of other drives towards the end of the season. Champ Cars followed with reasonable success but no race wins, before he took the step back down to GP2 in 2006. After 7 race wins and the 2007 title, he was hired by Toyota for 2008. His first full season was impressive, his second a little more average in relation to the increased expectation. Despite this relatively disappointing second season, he has 3 podium finishes (two seconds and one third) to his name from just 36 starts.

PROSPECTS: A lot was expected of Glock in 2009 after his debut season, but he struggled to live up to the expectations on a consistent basis. On the whole, he outpaced Jarno Trulli when it really mattered on race day, and scored a second and a third-place finish. Virgin Racing offer him a new challenge of being the leader in a new team. Hopes are still high for his future at this moment in time, but he still has much to prove.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: A season of consistency, where the only variable is the performance of his car, yields a number of points finishes.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Glock fails to stamp his authority on the team and his rookie teammate and finds his shiny newcomer credentials have well and truly dimmed.


BIOGRAPHY: Lucas di Grassi was born in São Paulo on 11th August 1984. In a career without any single-seater titles to his name, di Grassi has nevertheless managed to be a consistent threat to his rivals. He won the blue riband Macau Grand Prix of Formula 3 in 2005, and is one of the GP2 Series' most successful ever drivers, with five race wins and final championship positions of 2nd, 3rd and 3rd to his name between 2007 and 2009.

F1 PEDIGREE: Lucas di Grassi starts 2010 as a rookie, though he has been a Renault test driver for a number of seasons.

PROSPECTS: As I said before, some drivers only really flower when given the opportunity to drive in Formula 1. Di Grassi is another pilot who, I feel, has all the necessary qualities to fit this bill. As well as significant European single-seater experience, he is also very consistent from race to race. This could prove an invaluable quality for his new team in their battle to be the best of the newcomers.

IN AN IDEAL WORLD: Di Grassi matches Glock in both pace and in points scoring.

IF THE WHEELS COME OFF: Di Grassi finds himself back in GP2.

Tomorrow: Force India, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Lotus Racing.